A Finale (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 11)

30th May 2030

The saloon doors swing behind me as I stride into the seedy bar, spurs clinking on my heels. An eerie quiet falls over the room. I chew on my toothpick as I survey my surroundings. They’re here somewhere.

Ignoring the murmurs from all around the saloon, I walk up to the bar, taking out my toothpick and flicking it expertly down the bar and into the spittoon. I tip my Stetson at the barmaid and she walks over to me.

“Where are they?” I ask, in a barely audible growl.

“Well… Well…” Her face flushes with colour. “Well I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, mister.” She stammers, in a southern USA drawl.

“I been lookin’ for 3 god damn years.” I whisper, also sounding much more American than usual for some reason. “I know they’re here. Show me where.”

Reluctantly, she points me towards a group of stuffy old men in the corner, before scurrying away to the back room.

Clink… Clink… Clink… I walk slowly over to the group, who are deep in conversation. One by one, their eyes find mine and their conversation dies.

“Bolton City Council?” I ask. Nobody responds. The saloon’s grown eerily quiet once again. “I’m looking for Bolton City Council. I want to know when the new sta-“


For a moment, I don’t feel anything at all. It’s not until I touch my gut, then see the blood on my hand, that I realise what’s happened. Staggered, I fall to the floor, bleeding profusely.

The oldest, stuffiest and most boring looking of the old men stands, casting a long shadow over me. In his hand is a smoking pistol.

“You ain’t gettin’ yer god damn stadium.” He smiles, showing off his crooked, yellow teeth, before raising his gun once again. This time he aims for my head.

“After all I’ve done for you. For this city.” I laugh joylessly, spraying yet more blood across the floor.

Another loud bang, a flash of light, and then everything went black. The end.

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4th September 2029 (Present day)

Let me start off with the news that annoyed me no end just after we last spoke – After 2 seasons of anticipation, the completion of the planning phase of the stadium build has been pushed back a year.

I’m not entirely sure when you get to find out the name of the stadium, but I was pretty optimistic that it’d be this Summer, when we actually put a spade in the ground. Oh well though, there’s always next year.

We’ve had the usual flurry of outgoing activity that’s sparked the incoming activity – This year we sold Wesley, Machado, Maciel, Centelles, Hallgren and a couple of unexciting youth players, as well as Hocine Boussaada on loan, which I’ll get to in a minute. All in all, we raked in £113M.

In terms of incomings…

Kevin Ellis – Striker – £2.2M from AaB
Over last 3 seasons in Danish Superliga, ave ratings 6.79-7.26, 33 goals scored in 86 appearances, 2.42-2.82 dribbles per game

I’ve already mentioned Kevin – He’s gone on loan to Portsmouth in the Championship this year and he’s scored on his debut, which is promising.

No 21 – David Xhofleer – Left Wing Back – £8M from Stuttgart
Over the last 3 seasons in Bundesliga & Bundesliga 2, ave ratings 6.73-7.04, 3.23-3.53 tackles per game, 1.23-1.52 dribbles per game, 80%-82% pass completion

As good as Centelles has been for us, even as recently as last season, it was time to let him go to Sassuolo at age 29 and bring in a younger model who we can develop. David is that younger model and has had a solid 5 years of first team football in his native Germany.

No 16 – Naldo – Midfielder – £12.5M from Corinthians
Over last 3 seasons, ave ratings 6.77-7.00, 25 goals and 9 assists in 150 games, 3.03-3.17 tackles per game, 76%-77% pass completion

Naldo’s come in to replace Hallgren, who’s joined Leeds, as that 3rd or 4th choice central midfielder. He’s nice and versatile and has looked very solid back home in Brazil for both Corinthians and Botafogo.

No 4 – Danilo Pinto – Centre Back – £23.5M from FC Porto
Over last 3 seasons on loan at WBA in the Championship, Premier League and back in the Liga NOS, ave ratings 7.06-7.11, 1.27-3.32 tackles per game, 8 goals and 9 assists in 106 games, 84%-90% pass completion

Danilo’s come in as pretty much a like-for-like replacement for Diego Machado, who’s joined Sheffield United. They’re pretty much identical, except that Danilo’s faster, stronger, smarter and way better on the ball. I guess they’re not actually that alike, but I’m happy with our business.

No 17 – Axel Baeza – Midfielder – £23.5M from Boca Juniors
Over 4 years of first team football with Boca, ave ratings 6.72-7.16, 3.7-4.27 tackles per game, 75%-80% pass completion, 15 goals and 8 assists in 157 games

Axel’s in as a direct replacement for Pedro Maciel, who’s gone to Shandong Luneng. These 2 are actually pretty similar, except that Axel’s way more physically dominant and not quite as technical. At 6’4″, having him striding around the centre of the park is going to be a bit of a throwback to the days of having Tomasz Liwoski in there. Unlike Lisowski or Maciel though, Baeza’s got huge potential.

No 23 – Preguinho – Striker – £22M from SC Braga
Over 2 seasons of first team football on loan with West Brom in the Premier League and in Liga NOS with Braga, ave ratings 6.92-7.22, 23 goals and 8 assists in 74 games, 2.49-2.93 dribbles per game

Alright, this wasn’t my smartest signing, but I’m still extremely happy with it, as this is a man who’s got world class potential. I was resigned to losing Carles Amat this Summer with several massive teams sniffing around and I was ready to pounce on Preguinho whenever a bid came in, so that we could have a nice, smooth “one in, one out”. But then the bids for Amat never came while Dortmund bid for Preguinho, which sort of forced my hand as I didn’t want to end up with neither player. Preggers chose us over Dortmund (How far we’ve come) and nobody ever bid for Amat, so now I’ve got them both! This is why Boussaada, who’s a perfectly good squad player, has been shipped off on loan to West Brom. (Coincidentally, Preguinho has also spent time on loan with the baggies in 27/28).

No 1 – Martin Zeman – Goalkeeper – £5.5M from Sparta Prague
Over 5 seasons of first team football with Sparta, ave ratings 6.96-7.24, 0.51-0.98 conceded per 90, 127 conceded in 178 games with 83 clean sheets

Zeman’s the latest goalie on the production line after Hertha Berlin signed Wesley for an extortionate £40M. Funny thing is, they signed him because they’d just sold our old keeper N’Dri to PSG for a deal which could rise to £90M, so I knew they had the cash. Zeman’s been ridiculously consistent in a team which, admittedly, has dominated Czech football for 4 decades. I’m quietly confident that he’ll be able to handle the step up to the big leagues and even improve for us.

So we haven’t done as well bringing players in on the cheap this Summer, but in all fairness, the bar for quality keeps rising for us and we’re still making a profit. When you get to this level, the pure moneyball I’ve been trying to employ doesn’t really hold up. Proven talent at the level you need (if you want to improve and not just stagnate) costs money, so we’ve spent it. Squad-wise, this is how we’re now looking:

I’m pretty sure that Martin Zeman’s going to be our first choice, but behind him we’ve got 2 pretty equally decent keepers in Symes-Hook and Andrew. In fact all 3 of these are around the same level, so I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of the season the pecking order’s changed.

We’re well stocked at centre back, as always. After working himself into the first team rotation over the last couple of years, Marco Kana is our new club captain, taking over from Rafa Perez. Diego Hipólito, arguably our best centre back, is the new vice captain, taking over from Felix Nmecha. Pinto will fit in fine, Gaillard’s reliable as hell and Tamplin never complains about being our last resort because he’s a good egg. Big centre mid Baeza can also cover here.

Prucha and Mezzano should do absolutely fine at right wing back. They never really let us down. Kyle Manning can cover here.

Left wing back’s a bit more of an unknown, though. Flores had an excellent first 6 months with us, but the jury’s still out, while Xhofleer is a brand new signing. Fellow new signing Naldo can also provide cover here.

I don’t know about the opposition, but the combination of Coulibaly and Baeza scares the shit out of me. A big, physically dominant, technically dominant and mentally superior Ivorian and a huge, physically dominant Argentinian. They’re going to have some fun with this league. Naldo should slot right in as cover, Manning’s always dependable enough to make the squad and we have a host of players who can cover, like Kana, de la Tejera, Nmecha and Perez.

Attacking midfield is a position to keep an eye on. Nmecha’s a solid backup, but de la Tejera’s been angling for a move and I’ve agreed to let him go if we get £32.5M. I’ll keep an eye out for potential replacements in the meantime.

Up front, we’re fucking delicious. Carles Amat is now referred to by my coaches as a “World Class Talent”, Arcaba is looking very promising as a deeper striker next to him, Preguinho is the next big thing and Perez is a solid leader who can slam in a penalty.

You don’t need to see the finances anymore, but I just like showing them off at this point. This is how good a moneyball approach in the Premier League can be:

Our season’s started excellently, considering we drew Liverpool in our first match for the 3rd time in 4 seasons in the Premier League. Seriously, the scheduling is so fixed. The only time we didn’t play them 1st was last season when we had double-winning Manchester United. Oh thank you, kind fixture gods. Anyway, we actually beat them pretty comfortably somehow, with our 2 starting strikers getting off the mark in a 2-0 win. Manchester City were next at their place, though (Seriously, come on…) and we got hammered. Since then, we’ve edged past Crystal Palace thanks to a last-7-minutes turn around with a first goal for Preguinho and one for Prucha, then we comfortably saw off West Ham. Arcaba’s picked up an injury and has missed a couple of games, but Preguinho and Amat are already on 2 goals each, which is excellent.

We’ve drawn Cardiff in the Carabao Cup, which should be a nice chance to use our 2nd string, but we’ve drawn a fairly tough group in the Europa League. As one of the minnows, I suppose we were bound to end up with a few bigger fish, though. We start with Gent after the international break, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

The bookies have us at 11th this season, which isn’t as insulting as their predictions usually are, but I still think we can do better. I want us chasing Europe again and at least making the top 8, while potentially winning a cup? I really want the stadium to be named after me and winning a cup this year might be our last chance to shoot me into legend-dom and make it happen. We’ve reached the Carabao Cup Final and the FA Cup Semi Final in the last 2 years, so why not?

Just before I end this first section, do you know what I’ve just now realised? We’re the S I X T H most valuable club in England! We’re valued at £1.44B, which is behind only Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Man United and Tottenham, all of whom are valued at £2B. We’re more valuable than Everton, than Leicester, than bloody Liverpool. Madness. Anyway, see you soon.

1st February 2030

Doesn’t it just bring a tear to your eye?

As we enter another new decade, brave, plucky Bolton have made themselves nice and comfortable in 5th place in the Premier League after a really solid first 6 months of the season. Not only have we been having a smashing time in the league though, but we’ve been kicking arse in the cup competitions too!

It turns out I was way overestimating the teams in our Europa League group – We came out of it with 6 wins from 6 games and an extremely healthy goal difference. We’re still in the FA Cup for now, despite a tough 4th round draw against Liverpool. The first attempt ended 1-1 at Anfield, so we’re due a replay. We’ve also got a bloody genuine chance at actual silverware as we’ve made our way to a Carabao Cup Final against relegation-threatened Burnley!

Admittedly, it hasn’t been the toughest run to the final ever, but it certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk. We had 3 championship sides in Cardiff, Birmingham and Forest and a match against Spurs in the quarter final. I’ll be coming back to bring you the final as it happens later, so do me a favour and keep everything crossed.

The transfer window was as busy as January transfer windows ever are – 1 in, 2 out, although 1 of the 2 players that left was a fairly talentless kid. When Bayern came knocking for star defender Diego Hipólito, I knew there was no point in putting up a fight. I squeezed a club record £45M out of them and replaced the centre back with a lad from Mexico named Irving Jasso.

No 25 – Irving Jasso – Centre Back – £24.5M from Pumas de la UNAM
Over 4 years as a first teamer, ave ratings 6.7-6.93, 2.64-3.35 tackles per game, 78%-83% pass completion

It has been really, really tough finding a quality, yet affordable centre back this month. I’m not 100% sold on Irving as an investment, but he looks like he’ll be solid enough as a player. It was his debut goal that earned us an FA Cup replay against Liverpool, so that’s something.

In other transfer news, we almost sold captain Marco Kana for £30M to Brighton, but as I legitimately couldn’t find anyone of his quality to replace him for less than £80M, I pulled the plug. We also managed to tie our star striker Carles Amat to a new 4 and a half year contract to frighten off his pursuers and 2 transfers have been agreed for the Summer – The first is Diego Mezzano’s move to Bologna on a free transfer. He’s never quite reached the heights that I’d hoped for and at 26 I think it’s time we went our separate ways. I did receive an offer of £6M for him in January, but as there are no right backs on the market that tickle my fancy to replace him, I’d rather let him go on a free later. The other agreed transfer is an incoming one, and it’s for Fabian Wiesner.

Fabian Wiesner – Striker – Free transfer from Fortuna Dusseldorf
Over last 3 years as a first team player in Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, ave ratings 6.99-7.34, 43 goals and 8 assists in 101 games, 3.08-3.63 dribbles per game

I know I’m not meant to “stockpile” talent as such, but I couldn’t resist signing Fabian as he looks an excellent prospect. He can comfortably play in either of the roles we use up front or as a number 10, has potential for days and has been really impressive in a really high quality league at such a young age. If this Summer’s the one where we finally cash in on Amat, then he’ll replace the Spaniard in the squad, otherwise I might look to finally get rid of Rafa Perez to make room.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll see you in a month and a day for an honest-to-goodness shot at a trophy.

1st March 2030

Here we go, bitches – 156 years without a League Cup might be about to end.

It’s Dave O’Leary v Scott Parker. Marco Kana v Vítor Ferreira. Carles Amat v Amaury Sainz. The league cup will be coming back to Lancashire, but with whom?

Before we get into it, a quick update on how February went – February was fucking awesome. We did go out of the FA Cup thanks to a 121st minute David Xhofleer own goal, but we picked up league wins against City, Liverpool, Everton and Newcastle and we’re in such a good position that we’d have to be pretty spectacularly bad from this point to miss out on a European place for next year.

And we’ve just drawn Porto in the Europa League knockouts, which should be an interesting tie.

Alright, now back to the matter at hand – We’re only missing Eric de la Tejera, who picked up a hernia a couple of weeks ago and isn’t back in training yet. Other than that though, everyone’s available. I had nightmares last night that Carles Amat would be ruled out at the last minute but I think he’s going to make it.

6 minutes in, Preguinho plays a lovely little one-two with Amat and goes one-on-one with Legg, who saves well from the Brazilian’s low shot. A few minutes later, Biel Flores stands over a free kick, 25 yards from goal. He curls it… Straight into the top corner! Oooooo ya beauty!

Bolton give us a scare halfway through the first half when Pinto’s robbed of possession near the halfway line, allowing Sainz to run through on goal unchallenged. His shot’s pretty tame though and easy for Zeman to catch.

And that’s it for the first half. Not a lot going on here, but we’ve been on top and we’ve got the lead to show for it. We’re 45 minutes from an actual domestic trophy. I beg the players not to lose their heads.

20 minutes after the break, Preguinho scores! He heads in from close range after Jasso flicked on a long throw, but he was offside, so it’s ruled out. We remain 1 goal ahead and my buttocks remain firmly clenched in fear.

With 20 minutes to go, I bring on Arcaba for Preguinho, who’s missed a couple of decent chances. A few minutes later, Prucha, who’s on a booking, seems to tug on Miath’s shirt. That’s what I assume it’s meant to be anyway, because it looks like he does absolutely nothing but the ref sends him off. Mezzano comes on for Nmecha to plug the gap.

Shit game, but it got the job done. COME. ON. YOU. TROTTERS.

This season is the fucking best. I’ll see you at the end of it.

29th May 2030

Erm… We might be on for a double.

Ridiculous, isn’t it??? We’re potentially going to come out of this season with our first league cup and our first Europa league. Since the league cup final we’ve had a pretty average time in the league, but our Europa League performances have been really good – We’ve edged past Porto 1-0, edged past Leverkusen 3-2 and obliterated Villarreal 6-3.

I think let’s just get straight into this match. We’ve got a few players with knocks, but Tamplin, Naldo and Symes-Hook wouldn’t have started even at full fitness anyway.

It’s worth noting too that Preguinho’s in incredible form – He’s now on 23 goals for the season, just 1 behind Carles Amat’s and Eddie Brown’s now joint club record, which is 24.

Oof! Jasso goes close after just 2 minutes when Flores whips a fierce corner in and he heads it just over the bar. But it’s West Ham who draw first blood when Rodriguez volleys home from a yard out.

25 minutes in, we get a chance to equalise when at the end of a brilliant move, Flores is brought down in West Ham’s penalty area by former Bolton lad Luca Connell. Preguinho steps up – And scores! Equalling Carles Amat’s tally for the season and our club record.

Quarter of an hour later, Flores’ corner is nodded on at the near post by Jasso and tucked home by Pinto as we complete our turnaround and take the lead in the Europa League final! At half time, we look well worth our lead.

5 minutes after the break, a delicious ball over the top from Preguinho sets de la Tejera clean through, but his poked shot is tipped behind by Konaté.

With 20 minutes to go, Flores (Making everything happen today, isn’t he?) crosses from the left and Amat’s glancing header goes just wide of the far post. 10 minutes later, just as I’m preparing Mezzano for a final goodbye appearance, de la Tejera goes down and will have to come off. Nmecha joins Mezzano on the pitch. I’m happy with their introduction, they’re both long-standing squad members with a lot of influence in the dressing room, so hopefully they’ll help everyone to keep their heads in the final 10 minutes.

Oh, perfection. In the 95th and final minute of the game, we break after Baeza stops a building move from West Ham. Nmecha slides the ball in behind the defence and Carles Amat strokes it beyond the keeper to reach that magic milestone of 25 goals and become Bolton’s new record goalscorer in a season in the modern era. 3-1 it finishes and I’m a happy fucking panda.

Jesus, well I was not expecting this. At the start of the season I said a top 8 finish and a cup would be nice, but I didn’t actually expect us to win anything. It’s like I always expect Everton to win a cup IRL, but I’m 29 now and we’ve won fuck all since before I even cared about football. To win a double?? What on Earth has happened?

Oh shit, and that makes Champions League football next season!

Well, let’s do all of our end of season things and wrap this up – It feels like this has been a really long episode, what with the 2 cup finals and everything.

Our strike partnership is now fucking incredible. The Amat/Preguinho combo has scored 49 goals this season. I’m also happy with the contributions of Arcaba, who’s a solid 3rd option, Perez, who scored 6 despite extremely limited gametime and the likes of Pinto and Naldo, who got a handful of goals in their debut seasons.

Who’s setting up those goals? Well it’s mainly Biel Flores, who like Amat has set a new Bolton record of 14 assists in a season, which just betters the previous record of 13 set by Jordan Boon in 22/23 and equalled by Álex Centelles in 26/27. David Xhofleer’s also had a really good season, setting up 11 despite starting half as many games as Flores, while Amat, Coulibaly and de la Tejera all deserve credit too.

Our best player technically was Stuart Tamplin, although we don’t exactly have the largest sample size to base that off. Likewise for the soon-to-be-released defender Louis Underwood, who played a single match and did well, but has no future here. Carles Amat’s probably the actual player of the season in 3rd place.

And where do we need to strengthen? Well, it depends on who we sell, as always, but I definitely want a right wing back to replace Mezzano and an attacking midfielder to replace Nmecha, who I plan on selling. A top class centre back would be nice too, if we can afford it… Jk, we’ve got a fucking £287M transfer budget, but I’m honour-bound to look for bargains.

So that’s it. Season 11 has certainly been an eventful one and I’m actually a bit worried we may have just peaked, but we’ve got Champions League football to look forward to next season, as well as another potential board takeover and the prospect of our new stadium. The first spade should be going into the ground over this summer. Despite all of our heroics though, the name “Dave O’Leary Arena” is looking unlikely…

Oh well. See you in 30/31!

31st May 2030

Except no, I won’t. A day after we completed our famous double and I finished writing this episode (Or so I thought), the stadium plans had to be scrapped after we were denied planning permission. To be honest, the stadium move was what I’d been striding for for a couple of years. Without that on the horizon, I think I’m done.

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I set out to take a club that was haemorrhaging money in the 4th tier of English football and through some astute business and responsible handling of finances, bring them out of their horrible situation. After winning League Two, League One and Championship titles, as well as our Europa League/Carabao Cup double, I’m 100% satisfied that I’ve done that.

I’ve played 566 games, won 288, drawn 138 and lost 140. My Bolton side has scored 796 goals and conceded 505. I’m calling time on my career with a goal difference of 291 and a win percentage of 50%. Almost exactly.

Or maybe calling time is the wrong way to put it. I might revisit this in a couple of months and see how far I can really take Bolton, but I’ve played 11 seasons in 6 weeks and I definitely need a break! Let me know if you reckon this is worth coming back to or whether it’s run its course.

Overall I made a £283M profit on player sales, which means I very nearly made twice as much money from sales than I spent on signings. Moneyball’s fucking brilliant. And effective.

So one last time, let’s take a look at the club finances. We started off with less than a million in the bank and in £40M or so of debt. Now we’ve got over £350M in the bank, we have the 5th highest turnover in the World and at £1.55B, we’re the 7th most valuable club in the World behind Man City, Bayern, Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs.

So yeah, I think I’m done with this save. I’m writing this on the 11th of October and if my calculations are correct you won’t be reading it for almost 2 months. Maybe by that time I’ll be into the idea of carrying on, but I’m not sure.

Either way, thanks for somehow reading all the way to the end and I’m sure I’ll talk to you soon.



A Blessing And A Curse (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 10)

9th September 2028

Woah! It’s September already?? Well, I reasoned that if I’m not going to lift my skirt to show you all my transfers until September anyway, we may as well start here. I want to streamline these episodes a bit, now that we aren’t going for promotions or anything exciting like that. With that in mind, look at all this dosh wot we got.

Yes, we’ve let 7 players leave permanently. We started off shipping young non-prospect Alan Dawson to Middlesbrough for £1M (+50%), then he was followed out of the door by Poley Goalie Wojciech Pacholarz, the Scandi Target man-di Jacob Hansen… The attacker from EurAfrica Victor Joseph… I’m abandoning this bit. Basically we sold some squad players and then we sold some first team players, namely Jean Guillaume, Ivan Vázquez and Steve Lyons, all for major profit. At £40M, Lyons is actually our new record sale, breaking the record we set a few seasons ago by selling N’Dri for £30M. As well as the usual hoard of kids I’ve sent out on loan, Diego Mezzano has gone to Serie A for the season as we had too many right wing backs. Let’s have a look at the incomings.

No 19 – Nemanja Arcaba – Striker – £5.75M from Crvena Zvezda
Over the last 3 seasons in the Serbian top tier, 30 goals and 23 assists in 107 games, ave ratings 6.94-7.27, 2.09-2.29 dribbles per game

I mentioned Arcaba at the end of last season. He’s been brought in as a replacement/upgrade on Jacob Hansen.

No 14 – Diego Hipólito – Centre Back – £15.75M from Santos (Brazil)
Over 3 seasons as a first teamer for Santos, ave ratings 7-7.22, 5 assists per year, 4-4.26 tackles per game, 77%-82% pass completion

I never replaced Burrows or Kerr last season, so I’ve done it now. Hipólito comes in to compete for the starting centre back spots, but he could also maybe fill in at right wing back if needed. I doubt I’ll use him there.

No 13 – Wesley – Goalkeeper – £17M from Corinthians
Over 2 seasons as a first team player, ave ratings 6.93-6.94, conceded 33 in 46, keeping 24 clean sheets

This seems to happen every time I buy a new keeper nowadays. I wanted Wesley to come in and compete with Guillaume after Pacholarz’ departure, but then I ended up selling Guillaume too, so Wesley’s our first choice. Not ideal, considering he can’t speak English, but he should at least stop plenty of shots and he’s got room to grow.

No 18 – Eric de la Tejera – Attacking Midfielder – £7.75M from Club León
Over 3 seasons as a first team player, ave ratings 6.88-7.02, 20 goals and 17 assists in 123 appearances, 1.27-1.89 dribbles per game

I’ve been watching Eric for a while. This has happened quite a lot in this save because of the “obscure” sort of signings I’ve been trying to make. You end up spending a hell of a lot of time waiting for players to make enough appearances for their country that they’ll be able to get a work permit and sign for you. 9 caps later, we’ve recruited the hottest young talent in Mexico and he looks brilliant.

No 24 – Josh Symes-Hook – Goalkeeper – £1M from Southampton
Only played 12 Premier League matches and no loans since coming through at Southampton

Not my finest moneyball signing. I’ll admit, we had nothing to go on when we signed Josh, but options were thin on the ground and I needed a backup keeper. He looks decent enough and for just £1M, there’s no risk in this one, really.

My goalies, as I’ve said are Wesley and Symes-Hook, with the stalwart Vickers backing them up. As he’s entering his 10th season with the Trotters, Vickers will be due a testimonial next Summer! How time flies.

We’ve got 5 really good quality defenders here. What I like about this squad is that everyone’s so versatile that I don’t need any more than that. In a crisis, we can bring Hallgren or Maciel back to deputise.

At right wing back, these 2 are very solid in the absence of Mezzano, who I’ve sent to Benevento in Serie A to get minutes after that horrible cruciate ligament injury. Manning can also help out here in a pinch.

I’m less happy with our options at left back as both Centelles and Duda are very average, but they’ll certainly do for this season.

I’m very happy with our midfield. Coulibaly is arguably my best signing over the course of this save as he’s such a rock for us in the middle. Maciel, Manning and Hallgren are all good, versatile options and we can also deploy the likes of Kana, Duda, de la Tejera, Nmecha, Perez and Boussaada here if we need to. Seriously, this squad’s so tremendously versatile.

Our attacking midfield options are solid here. I wasn’t comfortable last year having Lyons and Nmecha together when neither of them were playing particularly well.

Up front is where the money is. Amat is our crown jewel and my mouth is watering at the prospect of he and Arcaba linking up together. If they hit it off, we could really hammer a few teams. Perez and Boussaada are really bankable backup options.

The season’s started well. After draws which sparked opposite emotions away at Manchester United and at home against Swansea, Carles Amat got off the mark with a hat trick again, because apparently that’s his thing now. Arcaba also got his first goal off the bench as we cruised past Brighton. We then brushed off Rochdale in the Carabao Cup, got beaten by a 93rd minute West Brom winner and edged past Everton. We’re left in 8th place after 5 games, which I’ve got to be happy with, really.

And speaking of the league, we’re predicted to actually stay in it comfortably, which makes a nice change! Look at us being all established in the Premier League.

3rd February 2029

Not! Too! Shabbyyyy!

We’ve had a little bit of everything so far this season. The first month or so we had a really mixed bag that had us vying for Europe, then we had a 7 match winless streak from September to December that left us down near the relegation zone, but since that run ended we’ve only lost once in 14 games, while we’ve won 9. So we’re back up hovering around midtable, which seems about right for us this season. We’re certainly having tougher draws in the cups this year though – We were seen off by Spurs in the Carabao Cup 4th round and we’ve just scraped past Everton in extra time of the FA Cup 4th round replay, thanks to a Nemanja Arcaba goal just before half time.

Transfer-wise, we’ve had a little dabble this window, sparked by Marcin Duda’s £33M move to Chongqing Dangdai, which came out of the blue. There’s no chance he’s worth that, so I’m laughing all the way to the bank. In his place, I’ve signed Biel Flores. He’s an upgrade, if anything.

No 25 – Biel Flores – Left Wing Back – £8.5M from Barcelona
Over the last 18 months in Spain’s 2nd tier, ave ratings 6.82-7.02, 4 assists per season, 0.99-2.91 tackles per game, 0.99-1.01 dribbles per game

Biel’s a bit raw and hasn’t been tested in a league comparable to the Premier League yet, but I’ve got faith he’ll come good. He’s got loads of potential and the only thing he can’t do is challenge for headers, which isn’t really the wingbacks’ primary goal anyway.

Even though the Premier League transfer window’s closed, we’re on the verge of letting another player go abroad – Saúl Pérez has had 2 and a half good years here, but Spartak Moscow want to give me up to £14M for him and I want to let them. In anticipation of the move, I’ve brought Mezzano back from Italy.

So if and when that deal does go through, we’ll have made over £100M profit from transfers over the course of this season, which is just mind-boggling. Money is trivial to a club like Bolton Wanderers now, as our bank balance approaches a quarter of a billion pounds.

Like I say, not too shabby, eh?

12th May 2029


And so ends the story of League 2 to Europe in 10 years. Just kidding, we’re not done yet. Blimey though, whoever stuck a quid on West Ham, Bolton and Sheffield United making the top 7 deserves their winnings.

The second half of the season’s been delightfully straightforward – We’ve been on another brilliant cup run, which ended in the Semi Final as Liverpool scraped past us. We’ve also done the job in the league though, picking up 18 points from our last 11 games. We did end a little bit shakily, getting hammered by West Brom, drawing with Brighton and losing to City, but then an excellent thrashing of the Toffees (Our 3rd win against them this season) cemented our place in next year’s Europa League.

Carles Amat has had a tremendous season, scoring 23 goals and setting up another 5 in 43 appearances. This is a blessing and a curse, as Manchester United and Arsenal are now prowling and I’ll be surprised if he’s still here by the start of next season. Arcaba and de la Tejera also ended up with solid enough tallies for the debut seasons.

There were no major standouts in terms of assists, but Prucha, Nmecha and Centelles all did well. Special shoutout to Flores too, who set up 5 goals despite only being here for the 2nd half of the season.

It’s no surprise at all that Amat was our player of the season. Again, shoutout to Flores though. What a start he’s made. Federico Machado just missed out on the top 5 after missing the last 6 months of the season with a fractured upper leg.

Sadly, I had to let Josh Vickers go in February. He was kicking off about me not finding him a move in the January window, so I just cancelled his contract. He so nearly made it to a testimonial.

I don’t think I’ll sign another keeper though. Andrew and Jenkins are both just about good enough to be around the squad now. In fact, I don’t know where we’ll buy this Summer at all. No doubt we’ll need another world-beating, talismanic striker. Maybe I’ll actually abandon moneyball for once and go big for one if Amat leaves in this £78M deal that the papers won’t shut the fuck up about.

Actually, I almost forgot to say – I have actually already signed a striker. Again.

Kevin Ellis – Striker – £2.2M from AaB
Over last 3 seasons in Danish Superliga, ave ratings 6.79-7.26, 33 goals scored in 86 appearances, 2.42-2.82 dribbles per game

Young Danish Welshman Kevin is nowhere near a replacement for Amat though – My plan is to loan him out and maybe sell him on for profit after a year or two. Still, he’s worth mentioning. His goalscoring record is actually really good, I just don’t think he’s going to be good enough for where we’re heading.

Right, that’s me done for another season. If you’re reading this, thanks for sticking with me through 10 years at Bolton Wanderers. We’ve still got a bit of time to kill before the stadium move, so I’ll see you bright and early next Friday for the 29/30 season!

A Brand New Stadium (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 9)

3rd July 2027

How on Earth are you? Welcome to my 9th Season in charge of Bolton. Cheers for reading this far! It’s just dawning on me now how long it’s taken me to actually get this save to the point I wanted to get it – We have cash, we’re in the Premier league, we have a competitive squad, a good scouting network and almost top facilities. Oh and did I mention… A BRAND NEW STADIUM?

Yep, the University of Bolton Stadium… Can I just call it the Reebok? You all know what I mean, I’m surprised it’s taken me 8 seasons to think of doing this. So the Reebok is now 30 years old and the board have agreed with my heartfelt assertion that that’s far too old and we need modernisation to keep us relevant. Now, this is very exciting to me as I genuinely cannot remember the last time my club built a stadium in FM. I think it might be an actual decade since this last happened to me. Or at least 6 or 7 years. From what I remember though, there are a few options for what the stadium will be called:

Option 1: The Bolton Wanderers Arena/Bolton Wanderers Stadium

This is obviously the worst case scenario. No creativity, no imagination, I’d be ashamed to walk through the doors of such a poorly named stadium.

Option 2: The Nathan Delfouneso Arena/Nathan Delfouneso Stadium

Yup, as far as I’m aware, this is an actual possibility. Our U23 coach is a club legend after helping to blast us up to the Championship back in the day and I’m pretty sure that stadiums can still be named after club legends. This would be brilliant.

In fact yes, I just went searching for proof and found it in Middlesbrough’s 2 year old Juninho Paulista Stadium. For some reason, I assumed it would only work with people who’ve become legends since the inception of the save, but apparently not. This opens up another possibility.

Option 3: The Nat Lofthouse Arena/Nat Lofthouse Stadium

Not gunna lie, I didn’t know very much about Nat Lofthouse until now. I think that’s fairly reasonable considering he retired as a player 60 years ago, but after a quick look at his wikipedia page, it’s obvious why he’s held in such high regard by the Trotters. A 1 club man, he scored 255 goals in 452 games for Bolton, as well as 30 in 33 for England. Jesus, what a goalscoring record. He also managed Bolton for 3 years to continue his streak of being involved with Bolton and nobody else but Bolton forever. The East Stand of the Reebok is named after him, he was a Freeman of the City and he had an OBE, so bloody right I’d be happy to have his name on our new ground. But then…

Option 4: The Dave O’Leary Arena/Dave O’Leary Stadium

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that I’m also on the list of Bolton icons. Near the top too, although I’m not sure whether that means anything… Nevertheless, if I do well enough over the next 2 years, there’s a chance that I’ll become a club legend and likewise, there’s a chance that this stadium will be named after me. This is now what I’m striving for. I want to take this club to glory for purely selfish reasons.

Anyway, it’s very likely now that I’ll carry this save on until we move into our new stadium, if only out of curiosity. All I know at the minute is that it’s going to be a 48,000 seater… I don’t really even know how long this takes, but if the planning’s apparently going to take 2 years, I’d imagine 4 or 5 seasons overall until we move in? Hope you’re in this for the long haul.

I’ve quite liked showing you the squad when it’s finished in September, so I’m going to keep doing that. Tata.

4th September 2027

Hey, not bad!

Alright, down to business. I said it was going to be a quiet window, and as it turns out… I was mega, ultra, über wrong. Starting with the outgoings as we do, Jordan Boon, George Dobson, Saul Stern, Nicklas Jensen, Tomasz Lisowski, Oisin Mahon, Ryan Stokes and Kevin Knapen have all left the club. I wanted to sell Boon, Dobson, Stern and Jensen this summer, I got too good an offer to refuse for Lisowski and the rest are unproven teenagers. We’ve also let Victor Joseph go out on loan to Cardiff City in the Championship, as I don’t think he’s ready for the Premier League. All in all we made a respectable £49.5M.

In terms of incomings, let’s start with…

No 20 – Hocine Boussaada – Striker – £10M from Dijon FCO
Over the last 5 seasons for Dijon in Ligue 1, ave ratings 6.87-7.14, 60 goals and 7 assists in 176 games, 1.77-2.5 dribbles per game

Hocine’s come in as one of the replacements for Jensen and Joseph. At the time he was a record signing for us, but spoiler alert: We’ve broken that record twice more since. He’s been a ridiculously consistent performer in the French top tier and it’s about time he stepped up to test himself in the Premier League. I’m very excited to see him play more, but he’s probably in my 2nd string at the minute.

No 6 – Franck Coulibaly – Midfielder – Free transfer from Asec Mimosas
In 4 years since coming through their academy, average ratings 6.95-7.17, 44 goals and 13 assists in 138 games, 1.69-2.1 dribbles per game.

You remember Franck – I told you about him at the end of last episode. Just adding him in here for completeness’ sake.

Dale Jenkins – Goalkeeper – Free transfer from Liverpool
Last season on loan in League One, conceded 35 in 40, kept 19 clean sheets, ave rating 6.94

I couldn’t really pass up the chance to flip Dale. He’s the Welsh first choice international goalkeeper (Coincidentally enough, he’s keeping our homegrown lad Aaron Fell out of the team) and he’s operating at a good League One level. He’s gone out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday as they attempt to bounce back up to the Championship and I’m sure we’ll be able to sell him on for a nice bit of profit later on.

No 15 – Michal Prucha – Right Wing Back – £15.25M from Tottenham Hotspur
In the last 2 seasons on loan in the Championship and the Fortuna Liga, ave ratings 6.83-7.04, 5 goals and 15 assists in 84 games, 2.23-2.66 tackles per game, 1.07-1.14 dribbles per game

And the record was broken again! Michal’s come in essentially to replace Diego Mezzano. It’s sad but I don’t want to be caught short if he has an injury relapse, so I’m preparing for the worst. Mezzano should be back in full training within a month, so then we’ll have 3 really good wing backs competing here. Michal’s just coming back from his own injury and isn’t fully fit yet, but I’m expecting good things once he’s up to speed.

No 9 – Carles Amat – Striker – £35M from Barcelona
Between 2023 and 2025 for Barcelona B, scored 39 goals and registered 6 assists in 72 games, ave ratings 7.01-7.3, 3.03-3.16 dribbles per game

Alright, I can explain. Yes, this may not be the most “moneyball” signing on first glance, but by my logic, relative to his ability, we are signings Carles for cheap and there is no doubt in my mind that we can sell him on for profit. He’s been starved of game time by Barcelona for the last 2 years, but in those 2 seasons in the Spanish 2nd tier between 2023 and 2025, he was an absolute world beater. I reckon if we play him regularly and he adapts successfully to the Premier League, we’ll be selling him for £70M+ within 3 years to one of the big boys. Maybe back to Barcelona. It’s not like them not to put a buyback clause on a deal like this, actually…

Anyway, safe to say our highest fee record won’t be broken again any time soon.

No 16 – Pedro Maciel – Midfielder – £3M from SC Braga
Last season in Liga NOS, 6.9 ave rating, 5 assists in 41 games, 3.23 tackles per game

I reckon Maciel’s got the potential to be my underappreciated signing of the season. For £3M we’ve got a quality Premier League player who has masses of untapped potential. I’ve started the season with him next to Coulibaly and they’re looking tidy.

No 26 – Marco Kana – Centre Back – £11M from RSC Anderlecht
Over 8 seasons since coming through Anderlecht’s academy, ave ratings 6.84-7.16, 3.35-4.31 tackles per game, 80%-85% pass completion

Marco’s come in to replace Boon as our 6th centre back and to offer some much needed backup to Ryan Gaillard, who we sorely missed last season when he was injured. He’s spent half of his career being really solid in Belgium, so it’s time to see if he can make the step up. I reckon so.

No 30 – Iván Vázquez – Midfielder – Free transfer from Real Madrid
Over last 5 seasons for Real Madrid B, ave ratings 6.74-6.92, 11 goals and 24 assists in 125 games, 1.99-3.8 tackles per game, 73%-81% pass completion

I really went back and forth on whether to sign Vázquez. He appeared on my radar towards the backend of 2026 when I was looking for players with just over 6 months left on their contract and my scouts lost their minds over how good he was and how good he could become. I didn’t like the look of his unambitious personality and what my scouts believed to be injury-proneness, although none of my coaches seem to agree that he is. It took me 6 weeks to finally pull the trigger and bring him in in mid-August and he’s currently in light training after a hip injury that’s kept him out for a couple of months. He’s immediately worth £23M, so that’s a good sign.

So for only the 2nd time this save, we’ve actually made a loss in the transfer market, although I think the step-up in quality this Summer has been the biggest so far, so I’m happy with it.

In goal, I’m far more comfortable now that we’re back to having 3 senior goalies – Jean Guillaume, Wojciech Pacholarz and Josh Vickers are all good options, although Guillaume’s still my first choice as he’s got the most room to grow.

At centre back we’re looking good too – Burrows and Kerr are decent with potential to fulfil, Machado and Gaillard are brilliant and getting close to their potential, while Kana and Tamplin are good squad players.

We’re actually overly stocked and under stocked at right wing back at the same time. Prucha, Mezzano and Pérez are all good enough to do a job, but Prucha’s not yet quite fit and Mezzano won’t be fully fit for a while still. Still, we should be alright in a month or two.

On the left we’re as we were last season – Duda and Centelles both offer quality options, while Doherty, probably in his last season at the club, offers backup.

We’ve got a very different midfield to the one that took us up 4 months ago, but I’m very excited at the potential we now have here. All of these players can still grow and some are nowhere near their potential yet.

Again, we have great options behind the strikers. Nmecha’s into his 3rd season with us and is dependable enough, while Lyons has proved his quality over the last year and I want to see him continue to improve. Young Hollingworth-Bevan will be the backup here.

And up front is possibly the most exciting position at all. Amat has really made me start questioning just how far we can go now. I think avoiding a relegation fight has to be a must this season and I don’t think that a top half finish is completely out of the question. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but if we continue to bring in this level of quality, it won’t be long. Oh and also, Perez is our new club Captain after Dobson’s departure.

Right, so let’s finally talk about this very young season. To be honest, not only are we doing very well so far, but we’re desperately unlucky not to be doing a whole lot better. Liverpool stole all 3 points in the 91st minute, West Brom snatched a draw in the 89th, then we recorded solid wins against Bristol and Oldham before coming through a tepid draw against Burnley. Aside from drawing Liverpool first again, the fixtures have been kind to us so far, with some favourable home ties in the league and League 2 opposition in the Cup.

But the bookies still expect us to go down come the end of the season. Granted they not expect us to finish 18th instead of 20th, but they still think we’ll be gone. I’m positive we’ll prove them wrong.

1st February 2028

Now that’s what I call progress!

This season has gone better than I could have imagined. Not only have we snatched wins against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and most recently Liverpool (3-0!!) and not only have we won 9 of our 12 home games in the league, but we’ve also reached the bloody Carabao Cup Final!!

An insane run of luck in the draw pitted us against Oldham, Blackpool, Barnsley and Bournemouth, then lesser Premier League sides from the South coast Southampton and Bournemouth. Having seen off the lot of them, we’ll face Arsenal in a couple of weeks to see if we can win our first domestic cup in 24 years.

I wasn’t anticipating a very exciting transfer window, but it really geared up towards the end, with QPR snatching both of our homegrown centre backs for a combined £35M (+50%) and Bristol City picking up Hollingworth-Bevan for £6M (+50%). The loss of 2 of our centre halves has forced me into action, but having already sent Hallgren on loan and with no perfect options available in the market, I’ve decided to sign a defender on loan.

No 19 – Walter Moreno – Centre Back – Loaned from River Plate (Option to buy for £3.2M)
Over the last 2 seasons, ave ratings 7.11-7.17, 4.01-4.02 tackles per game

Walter seems like a good defender. He might have a bit of a low ceiling so I’m not sure if I want him here permanently yet, but if I do decide to have him he’ll cost us practically no money at all. He’s here purely for cover at the minute.

26th February 2028

Alright, let’s do this. If I’m getting my heart ripped out in front of a Wembley crowd, I’m taking you with me for the ride. Just remember that a cup win could be the last piece of the “Dave O’Leary Stadium” jigsaw puzzle.

We’re without Vázquez for the final as he picked up a twisted knee last week. It’s turned out he is fairly injury prone, but not overly so. Everyone else is fit, so we should still be fine. Of course I pick the strongest squad I possibly can.

Arsenal, as expected, begin on the front foot as Tomori heads just wide early on from an Almada free kick. Another header from Martinelli rattles Guillaume’s crossbar after 20 minutes and yet another from Tetteh bobbles into the net via a deflection off Duda in the 27th minute. The fact that it goes down as a Duda own goal makes no sense to me though.

Despite this, we’re holding our own at the half hour mark. Arsenal have hit 2 of their 5 shots on target, while we’ve hit 6 of 6. Neither side’s had a clear cut chance and we’ve had the only half chance. We’re also edging possession and have had 5 fruitless corners, while the Gunners scored from their only 1.

At half time and still on top but losing, I sympathise with the players in the hopes that they’ll keep doing what they’re doing. It’s working, we’re just seeing no results whatsoever.

At the hour mark, we’ve still not had a single highlight, despite our dominance. I bring on Nmecha and Mezzano for the underperforming Lyons and Prucha.

And With 20 minutes to go, Arsenal seemingly wrap up their rather undeserved win in agonising fashion. A harmless Almada free kick comes in right on top of Guillaume, who misses the ball, allowing Guimaraes to head into the open goal. I decide to sacrifice defence for attack, because why not? Kana comes off to be replaced by Boussaada and we go all out attack, more direct and higher tempo.

But nope, we lose the match without having a single highlight. I’m not too worried though. To not only get to the Cup Final, but then to demolish Arsenal too is extremely promising. Yes, they got the goals, but look at this – This is not a match that should’ve ended 2-0. They’ve pulled off a legendary robbery today.

You haven’t missed much in the league by the way – Since the start of the month we’ve picked up a win, a loss and a draw, moving us up to the top half of the table! Right behind Arsenal, funnily enough.

17th May 2028

Bolton Wanderers, consider yourself part of the fucking furniture.

Yep we’re staying up comfortably this season, which is very exciting for me. I do wonder what we aim for next, though. I suppose top half, but we’ve got so much money to spend that if we can find the right 3 or 4 players, we could easily boost ourselves into European contention… Well that’s something to think about later, anyway.

We’ve had a weird couple of months. After Arsenal booted us out of Wembley, we went on to lose 3 of our next 4 games, drawing the other one. We then proceeded to end the year on a fine run of form, completing the double over Manchester United, (admittedly then losing to West Ham and City), then a win over Burnley, putting the final nail in Bristol City’s coffin, a goalless draw against the Blades and then sweet revenge against the Gunners.

Come to think of it, we’ve really shone against the big clubs this season. Against the Premier League’s big 7, which now officially includes Leicester, we’ve picked up 15 points, beating Arsenal, Leicester, Liverpool and United twice. Whichever way you look at it, this season has been a roaring success.

Carles Amat is already looking like an absolute bargain – After getting off the mark with a bloody hat trick in our 5-1 win over Sheffield United in September, he’s remained a steady contributor of goals throughout the season. To come from the Spanish 2nd tier to playing amongst the English elite and bag 14 goals in your first season is fucking marvellous. Boussaada’s also had an extremely promising debut season, getting into double digits for goals.

Arguably our best signing last year though was Michal Prucha – You can’t argue with 6 goals and 10 assists from a right wing back, can you? Behind him, Coulibaly, Maciel, Duda, Boussaada, Lyons and Kana all chipped in with 4 assists.

Our best player of the season… Technically… Was Jacob Hansen. Although this does come with some asterisks – The vast majority of his playing time and every one of his starts this season came in the domestic cups. My go-to pairing up front was Perez, our captain, and Amat, our best player by a mile. Behind them, Boussaada was the clear choice and I never really needed a 4th option for the league. So in a stunning turn of events, Jacob might actually be leaving this Summer…

… Mainly because I’ve already agreed to bring in his replacement.

Nemanja Arcaba – Striker – £5.75M from Crvena Zvezda
Over the last 3 seasons in the Serbian top tier, 30 goals and 23 assists in 107 games, ave ratings 6.94-7.27, 2.09-2.29 dribbles per game

Nemanja comes in as a more technical replacement for Hansen and will act as a natural understudy to Rafa Perez because of the way his attributes skew towards involvement in the build up of goals, rather than the scoring of them. He’s a bit of an opportunistic signing as Man City were circling and his release clause was low, but he could be very good indeed for us.

So what’s next on the agenda in terms of recruitment? Well, Lyons and Nmecha have both had pretty poor seasons, so an attacking midfielder would be nice. And we definitely could do with a top class centre back prospect, as I’m not impressed with Moreno. otherwise I think we’re alright. I’ll probably get rid of either Mezzano or Pérez at right wing back, as we don’t need both of them.

So, next season will be my 10th in charge of the Trotters. As a reminder, we’ve come from horrifying amounts of unpayable debt in League 2 to Premier League survivors with £150M in the bank, state of the art training and youth facilities (To be completed in October) and a new stadium on the way. It’s all beginning to come up Millhouse, isn’t it? See you next time.

A Big Fat Reset (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 8)

1st July 2026

Morning all. As I mentioned last week, we’re going to have a big fat reset this Summer, so I’m going to skip this section again. We’ll catch up later as I’m anticipating a bit of a mad one.

5th September 2026

Alright, wow. I think this has been our most eventful Summer to date so we have a lot to discuss. Before we get to the ins and outs though, I should probably make a few things clear: Firstly, having spent the last 7 or so years living in our overdraft, we’ve now flown to the other end of the scale and we now have all the money in the World. We’ve got so much money that we could buy 15 of the clubs in our division outright.

But and this is the most crucial thing to keep in mind this Summer – This doesn’t change the plan. We’re still doing the moneyball thing. We’re still looking for talent we can bring in on the cheap and sell on down the line. What it has meant though is that we can afford to be a bit more picky about which transfer offers we accept and that we can afford to be a bit more hardball with clubs who try to take our stars on the cheap. Ok let’s dive in, starting with the outgoings.

We’ve lost some real stalwarts this Summer. I really wanted to rebuild the squad from scratch as much as I could over this last year or so and this window was where we did the lion’s share of our rebuilding. So goodbye to Pedro Justiniano, José Lara, Eddie Brown, Jacob Greaves, Regan Riley, Harry Brockbank, Kun Temenuzhkov, Ronan Darcy, James Walker (And James Walker), Patrik Gunnarsson and Marcin Bulka. Told you it’d been eventful! Overall we brought in £90M, which is an obscene amount of money and again gives us a lot of room to manoeuvre over the next few windows.

In terms of incomings, we’ll start with …

No 21 – Marcin Duda – Left Wing Back – £3.3M from Lech Poznan
Average ratings of 6.82-7.26, 5 goals and 7 assists per season over last 2 years.

I’d been watching Marcin for a while and at the start of the window I was thinking that I’d keep James Walker as one of our centre backs (I wasn’t planning on selling him, but when Newcastle came in flashing £23M, it was too good an offer to resist), so we’d need cover at left wing back. Marcin was a natural left back/ central midfielder who we’ve pretty much entirely trained to play as a wing back from scratch over pre-season, which speaks to his versatility. He’s a good quality player and has been very consistent over the last 2 years at hometown club Lech Poznan, but he also has a lot of potential to grow into, which we love around these parts.

No 18 – Victor Joseph – Striker – £1.9M from Bradford City
Last season, 7.33 average rating, 24 goals and 11 assists in 46 appearances

We’ve taken a punt on Victor as his attributes don’t look all that impressive, but he’s just come off the back of an absolutely electric season in League One. After leaving Chelsea to join Bradford last Summer, Joseph went on to become League One’s top scorer and blasted the Bantams to promotion. He very nearly bagged a hat trick in our last match against Cardiff, but was thwarted by that pesky linesman, who ruled out his third. Despite his lacking attributes, there’s something exciting about a player who against all odds just knows where the fucking net is.

No 17 – Eric Hallgren – Midfielder – £1.4M from Malmo FF
Last season, 8 assists in 41 games, 3.64 tackles per game, 7.02 average rating, 80% passes complete

Eric comes in to be our 4th choice central midfielder, behind George Dobson, Tomasz Lisowski and Kyle Manning. Technically, mentally and physically he ticks a lot of the boxes for me to think he can be a Premier League scuttling midfielder. I’m not entirely sure how much he’ll play this Season but I’ll give him minutes where I can.

No 12 – Saúl Pérez – Right Wing Back – £500k from Lleida Esportiu
Over the last 3 years, average ratings between 6.91 and 7.1, 4 goals and 7 assists per season, 2.58-2.91 tackles per game

My coaches don’t think much of Saúl’s ability to be honest, but I like him. He’s performed consistently in the Spanish 2nd tier, he’s quick and fit and has an excellent brain. I’ve brought him in to compete with Diego Mezzano.

No 7 – Steve Lyons – Attacking Midfielder – £2.3M compensation from Everton
Last season, 6.77 average rating, 3 goals in 20 games, 1.64 tackles per game, 89% pass completion, 1.04 dribbles per game

Steve’s someone I’ve been watching since the end of last year as his contract was running down at the Toffees and I couldn’t decide whether or not I liked him. This is probably the least moneyball of all of my signings this Summer, but he seems to do a little bit of everything without excelling anywhere and I’m certain that with that passing and shooting ability, we can make him into more.

No 5 – Federico Machado – Centre Back – Free transfer from Defensor Sporting
Over last 3 seasons, average ratings 6.83-7.01, 3.9-4.54 tackles per game

It probably comes as no surprise that with Justiniano, Brockbank, Walker and Greaves leaving, we needed some defensive reinforcements. Federico’s off to a really promising start with us too – He’s helped us keep 8 clean sheets in the 9 matches he’s appeared in and after 3 goalless years back home in Uruguay, he’s somehow scored his first TWO professional goals for us already! Very promising, this lad.

No 4 – Ryan Gaillard – Centre Back – £8.75M from Paris Saint-Germain
In loan spells to Serie A and the Premier League over the last 3 seasons, average ratings 6.72-6.84, 3-3.84 tackles per game, 78%-86% pass completion

Ryan’s been brought in as a direct replacement for Harry Brockbank – The deeper, ball playing defender in the heart of our backline. We actually broke our club transfer record to sign him, a record that dated back to June 2008 when we signed Johan Elmander for £8.2M. As Gaillard got injured before the Cardiff match, he’s actually gone one better than Machado and we haven’t conceded any goals at all in the 720 minutes of football in which he’s played.

No 30 – Jean Guillaume – Goalkeeper – £5M from Angers SCO
Over the last 2 season for Angers SCO 2, conceded 35 goals in 45 games, average rating 6.92-6.93

The plan for Guillaume was to come in and get loaned straight back out so that he could get more game time before we needed him. As it turned out though, Arsenal came in with big money for Bulka after I’d already sold Gunnarsson, so now Jean’s my first choice. It’s going to be a bit of a baptism of fire, learning his trade in the Championship, but he’s already kept 4 clean sheets in 6 games so that bodes well.

No 23 – Stuart Tamplin – Centre Back – £3.1M from Charlton Athletic
Over last 4 seasons, average ratings 6.64-6.97, 1.09-3.77 tackles per game, 75%-80% pass completion

Well I’ve already shown you 2 of my centre backs. The other one that I have in mind to start most games this season is young Gareth Burrows, while we also have Ben Kerr and Jordan Boon in reserve. I wanted a 6th centre back option that was young enough to not mind being sat on the bench or in the stands, developed enough to hold his own, but not so good that he’d derail the progression of the young centre backs we already have. Stuart seems to thread that needle pretty perfectly and was available on the cheap as Charlton got relegated last season (That was when his average rating was 6.64, but to be fair the whole team was just awful. I’m willing to call that a one-off).

No 14 – Jacob Hansen – Striker – £6.5M from Arminia Bielefeld
Last season, 12 goals and 3 assists in 31 games, 7.22 average rating, 2.54 dribbles per game.

Jacob’s the last of our signings this summer and provides us more depth up front. He’s a natural target man and that’s a nice option to have in the squad, but mainly he’ll play understudy to Rafael Perez in the deep lying forward role. He’s had a good career so far but has yet to settle anywhere, moving from Randers FC to Dortmund, to Bielefeld, to Bolton in the space of 2 years. Hopefully he’ll settle here and we’ll see even better form than he’s shown in Denmark or Germany.

See, this is why I love Moneyball so much. We’ve made a £57M profit this transfer window and I feel like the squad’s 10 times as strong as it was! Or in fact, perhaps more importantly, maybe it’s more like we’ve got 10 times more potential. It’s also starting to feel like our transfer strategy is building inertia. The conveyor belt of talent has been shuddering and creaking for years, but it’s finally begun trundling along.

So after all of the ins and outs, this is where we stand now, squad-wise.

We’re looking the thinnest we’ve looked in goal for a long time, but I’m still confident. Jean Guillaume has a lot of potential, Josh Vickers is safe as houses as his back up and David Andrew’s a promising kid that’ll be 3rd choice.

I’m very happy with our centre back options. We’ve got 3 home grown lads, including the last remaining member of the Bolton squad I inherited, as well as 3 we’ve bought in, which is a nice mix. There’s plenty of ability, but more importantly, plenty of potential here.

Likewise at right wing back, I’m happy with our options. Diego Mezzano, Saúl Pérez, Saul Stern – All 3 of these players are decent and can still improve.

At left wing back, we’re very well stocked. Álex Centelles and Marcin Duda are both real quality players and we’ve got Paul Doherty in reserve too.

We now have an extremely young and hungry midfield, lead by club veteran George Dobson. Tomasz Lisowski and Kyle Manning are now on about the same level, so they’ll be battling it out for the 2nd midfield spot next to the captain. Eric Hallgren’s a really solid 4th choice and Billy Johnson from our academy is here if injuries start to pile up.

I’m intrigued to see what kind of performances we get out of Steve Lyons, but I’d be a bit on edge if we were depending on him week in and week out. Luckily, we’ve got the brilliantly talented and consistent Felix Nmecha ahead of him in the pecking order. We’ve also got Matt Dean in the queue, who earlier this Summer turned down a £5M move to Watford. It’s lucky we’ve got cash now because 2 years ago I would’ve attacked him viciously for that.

And up front we’ve got probably the best selection of strikers we’ve had to date. They’re all jacks-of-all-trades too and can do a bit of everything, but they’ve also got their specialties – Rafael Perez is the creator, Nicklas Jensen’s the skilful man mountain, Jacob Hansen’s the incredibly rounded one, Victor Joseph’s the enigma and Ross MacAskill’s scored 9 goals in 15 pre-season/U23 games so far this season, so he’s one to watch.

So where did the bookies put us this year? 19th? 18th? No, 7th! Which is such a dramatic leap from the days when we used to routinely get into the play offs that I reckon we might just win this league this season. Of course, there is another reason why I think that and you’ve had a sneak peak of it already…

We’ve started off in absolutely dazzling form, dropping points only once in a 0-0 draw against Sunderland. We’ve only conceded in the league in 1 match – our 4-2 win away at Cardiff and we have been worth every single point we’ve picked up.

We’ve come through some tough ties so far, seeing off teams that have been going for promotion and playoffs alike in recent seasons with relative ease. This month is going to be the real litmus test though. Before September is up, we’ll have faced both sides that were relegated alongside us, Brentford, who are always dicks to play against, Newcastle and Leeds, who are strong teams, and… Preston. But still, tough month.

My God, that was a lot of writing to say the season’s only a month old. See you in February when we’ve seen a bit more of what this new squad can do.

1st February 2027

Well, we’ve slipped to 2nd, but I’m still counting this as a win so far. It’s been interesting to see how injuries to Ryan Gaillard have affected our form so far – After that winning streak at the start of the season, a twisted ankle kept him out for 3 weeks in which we won just 2 of our 5 matches. Once he was back, we won 6 out of 9 and then he tore his thigh muscle in November and we went on our worst run of form of the season, winning 5 of our 13 games until he returned 2 days ago and helped us beat Bradford. Once you put it down on paper like that, the centre back’s become a really crucial piece of the puzzle already.

Elsewhere we’re getting really awful luck with Cup draws at the minute. Last season we had Mansfield, Man City, Southampton and Arsenal in our short cup campaigns and this season we’ve had Lincoln, Sheffield United (Beat us on pens) and Man City again in our even shorter runs. Once we establish ourselves in the Premier League I really want to actually start putting some cup runs together.

In terms of transfers, we’ve had 1 in, 1 out this window. Young and pretty hopeless right back Will Stuart has joined Rotherham for £250k and yet another young Polish lad has joined our ranks.

No 13 – Wojciech Pacholarz – Goalkeeper – £2.9M from Lech Poznan
Over last 4 seasons, average rating 7.16-7.62, conceded 0.63-1.07 goals per 90, conceded 87 goals in 105 games, keeping 42 clean sheets

Although Guillaume’s coming along nicely, he’s not been thoroughly convincing and I decided that I wanted an option to replace him should we need to. Wojciech’s been absolutely solid for Lech Poznan since coming through their academy and I’m really confident that he’ll do a job.

8th May 2027


In an unbelievable end to a really good season, we’ve gone and won the Championship at the 5th time of asking. And my God was it close. We’ve been scrapping for the automatic promotion spots since the start of 2027 and it finally came to a head on the final day, when we and West Brom were both on 97 points but they just had the beating of us on goal difference. So we went and battered relegated Sheffield Wednesday 6-0 to clinch the title.

It feels good. It feels like we’re now ready to take on the Premier League. We’ve got a good squad of players, lots of money in the bank to improve, our academy is now Category 1 for the first time and our youth and training facilities are (I think) about to reach “state of the art” status in the next few months.

We weren’t perfect this season though and there’s certainly still areas we can improve upon. I expected Nicklas Jensen to absolutely obliterate this division after he was our top Premier League scorer, but the Dane only managed 6 goals this season – The lowest of all our strikers. His compatriot Jacob Hansen had a good debut season though and was our top scorer. Victor Joseph wasn’t too bad either, having just come up from League 1.

Álex Centelles had a stellar season, equalling Jordon Boon’s 22/23 record of 13 assists from left wing back. I was also pleased with all the new lads who chipped in creatively – Lyons, Duda and Pérez all impressed in their first year.

Once again, our defenders lead the way in terms of overall ratings. Gareth Burrows was our star man, which for a home grown lad is incredibly pleasing in his first year as a first team player. Gaillard and Tamplin both really impressed at the back in their debut season, Centelles and Duda were great at left wing back and Hansen did the job up front.

I’ve already agreed a deal to sign a striker this Summer, but he’s not actually coming in to be a striker.

Franck Coulibaly – Midfielder – Free transfer from ASEC Mimosas
In 4 years since coming through their academy, average ratings 6.95-7.17, 44 goals and 13 assists in 138 games, 1.69-2.1 dribbles per game.

The thought of having a potential strike partnership with a combined finishing attribute of 16 is really not sitting well with me, but from the look of Franck’s personality and attributes, I think he’ll make an absolutely superb box-to-box midfielder. George Dobson’s approaching 30, so I’ll be looking to sell him this Summer while I still can. Hopefully the Ivorian can fill his boots.

In terms of transfers, I think we’ll be having a relatively quiet Summer by recent standards. I want to replace Jordan Boon and Nicklas Jensen, so we’ll need a new centre back and striker, plus Diego Mezzano’s torn his cruciate ligaments and might be out until Christmas, so a new right wing back might be on the cards if I can shift Saul Stern. Other than that, I think we’re alright.

So that’s it! Hopefully our last season in the Championship is done. Last time we came up I was already planning for relegation, but this time I want us staying up, adding to the squad and establishing ourselves amongst the elite. See you next time for the bloody 27/28 season! I think this is now the longest term save I’ve ever written about, by the way. Including Franjo. Mental.

A Debt-Free Life (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 7)

2nd July 2025

Well we finally made it. Bolton Wanderers have arrived for our first Premier League season since 2011/12 and now I have the rather daunting task of not fucking it up. As I’m sure you can appreciate, this Summer’s already been pretty mental and I’m certain it’s only going to get even more so, so I’m going to just skip this first section and we’ll catch up properly in September when everything’s sorted.

5th September 2025

Right… Well… Right. This is going to be tough. First of all, let me just relieve all of your fears – Financially, we are on top of the world. This is great as it means we should be in a brilliant position to strengthen the squad for the next few windows. I should say that the reason this is important is that I expect we’ll get relegated at the end of this season. Our attackers could barely score in the Championship and although we’ve strengthened up front, you never know how players are going to take to the Premier League. And yes we were defensively excellent in the Championship but A) The attackers in this league are far better and B) We no longer have N’Dri in net. So our only strength from last year is probably not as strong any more. In fact yes, let’s start with N’Dri.

Ibrahima N’Dri came to me at the end of last season and told me he wanted to move – Not surprised in the slightest, I agreed and found him a £30M move to Hertha Berlin, where I’m sure he’ll be a star. I’ve also sold unproven youngsters Oliver Lee and Gerry Shaw to Huddersfield and Fulham, as well as sub-standard players Amine Bassi, Alasanah Manneh, Dennis Politic and James Bree to Lens, Czestochowa, Colorado Rapids and Birmingham respectively. Jordan Boon has gone on loan to Cardiff as he really hasn’t even been good enough for a Championship side lately. All in all we’ve brought in almost £50M, which is not bad at all.

I’ve replaced these players with a mixture of academy graduates and what I hope to be astute signings, so let’s just have a run through the squad and I’ll introduce you as we go.

No, it’s not an old screenshot. The first signing to tell you about is N’Dri’s replacement – Polish shot stopper Marcin Bulka has returned to the University of Bolton stadium after 2 good seasons in the Championship and 1 on the bench after Bristol’s promotion. He’s straight back to being my first choice keeper, but Gunnarsson will be pushing him for his place, while Vickers puts his feet up in the background. Fun fact, we’ve now signed Marcin twice and spent about a fifteenth of what we received from Bristol City for him.

We’re as we were at centre back. Pedro Justiniano and Harry Brockbank are both solid options, Jacob Greaves always performs, but Richard Nartey and Nathan Smith are poor squad players. I did consider bringing in reinforcements but I couldn’t shift Nartey or Smith and I didn’t want to have so many options that I’d never use young Ben Kerr. Maybe I’ll revisit this area in January.

At right wing back, Diego Mezzano’s now our undisputed first choice, but 20 year old academy graduate Saul Stern is just about ready to push him for his place on the teamsheet. He’s got a lot of potential and I think he can do it.

We’re all changed at left wing back. After letting Omar Richards leave at the end of his contract, I was also unhappy with Jordan Boon’s performances, so he’s left on loan. For my first choice I’ve signed Álex Centelles from Swansea City, a wing back who’s spent the majority of his career with Valencia Mestalla in the Spanish 2nd tier. He’s been in South Wales for 2 seasons though and has proven himself as capable, making 5.93-8.46 tackles per game, completing 81-82% of passes and making 2.68-3.32 dribbles per game. Behind him we have James Walker (One of 2 left footed versatile defenders named James Walker to come through my academy, which is extremely confusing). James might not be a long term solution, but he’s got potential and I want to see what he can do after an impressive season on loan with Salford. Paul Doherty’s also in the mix as he tries to come back from a couple of really horrific injuries.

We’ve got a new friend in central midfield too and I should probably mention at this point that I’ve tweaked our formation slightly for Premier League opposition. I want us to be a bit more cautious when choosing when to get forward and make us a bit more solid. With this in mind, I’m sticking 6’7″ Pole Tomasz Lisowski in my midfield. He’s massive, strong, brave and a hard worker. He’s got potential too, so I’m hoping he’ll become the type of midfielder that gives playmakers nightmares. Tomasz really lit up the Polish top flight for Legia Warszawa last season, with a 7.12 average rating, 3 tackles per game and 11 assists, plus he’s comfortable in the centre of defence. Dobson’s still also a great option, but it might be time to think about moving Tom White and Regan Riley on. I couldn’t find a taker for Tom this Summer, but again I’ll revisit this in January as we continue our rebuild. After helping Bromley beat the drop with Ben Kerr last season, Kyle Manning’s still looking like a future star.

And we have a new signing behind the strikers – Felix Nmecha is now my biggest signing (£8M) from Shabab Al-Ahli, where he’s been on fire this last year, scoring 24 goals and assisting 10 more. He’s also proven in England, having spent time tearing up the Championship with Hull, Bristol City and Brentford. His good performances over those loan spells make me hopeful that he’ll be able to make the step up to the Premier League relatively painlessly. Darcy’s still here too of course, but his performances range between being our best player by a country mile and being so useless that I genuinely forget he’s playing.

Striker’s been such an awkward position for us since Nathan Delfouneso left. God, I miss Nathan Delfouneso. Life was so much simpler with him in the team. He’s now an Under 23 coach with us by the way, while David Unsworth’s a first team coach and Tomasz Radzinski’s our Eastern Europe scout. What was I saying… Oh yeah, we’ve not had a consistent goalscorer since Nathan left. Eddie Brown and Kun Temenuzhkov are both capable of having high scoring seasons but I certainly wouldn’t put money on them doing so. Especially not in the Premier League. So I’ve signed 2 new strikers in the hopes of having at least a really good Championship strikeforce.

First up is Rafael Perez, a Costa Rican/Spanish creative type that we’ve snapped up from his hometown club of Alajuelense for £1.1M. He’s absolutely torn up the Liga Promérica, scoring 70 goals and setting up 20 more since coming through the ranks 4 years ago. He has several massive plus points, like his amazing touch, technique and passing, superb decision making and flair, solid pace and aerial ability… The only thing is that he can’t shoot. I’m hoping to harness his good qualities and turn him into a provider for our other new striker…

… Nicklas Jensen. Nicklas isn’t exactly Sergio Aguero, but his finishing is considerably better than Rafa’s. Like Rafa, we’ve signed the Dane from his hometown club of Nordsjaelland, where he scored 74 goals and assisted 11 more in 5 seasons, for a measly sum of £1.6M. He’s one of those really tricky, rapid 6’6″ strikers who can tonk a free kick that you hear about and I’m really keen to see how the Premier League defences plan to deal with such an oddball.

All in all, I think that if these 2 can’t score us the goals to keep us afloat this season, they’re going to absolutely obliterate the Championship to take us back up and that’s got to be the priority. We’ve also got young Bjarki Már Magnússon here making up the numbers.

So we’ve come out of the Summer transfer window having made a net profit of £26M, which is pretty decent, but… Should we have spent more? Well it’s tricky isn’t it. If I could’ve sold Smith, Nartey, White, Riley, Darcy, Lara, Brown and Temenuzhkov, then yeah, I probably would’ve spent a lot more to replace them. But I couldn’t shift them. And I don’t want to buy players just because we’ve got the money and I don’t want a massively bloated squad that’s so choc-full of players that our very promising young academy graduates can’t break through. I don’t think spending another £20M would’ve saved us from our almost inevitable relegation this season, so I’ve gone conservative and played the long game. If we go down on goal difference I’ll eat my words, but until then I’m happy with my decision.

If anyone’s in any doubt about our probable relegation by the way, the bookies have got us finishing dead last. Granted, their predictions about us have been absolutely laughable nearly all throughout this save, but still. And it is quite comforting to know that there’s 4 other clubs who they believe to be just as fucked as us, so maybe not all hope’s lost after all.

So how have we actually started? Not as badly as you might think, considering our absolutely awful draw for the opening couple of games! I saw Liverpool at home followed by Man City away and put my head in my hands, but we didn’t disgrace ourselves. Nick Jensen got off to an incredible start to life in Bolton, latching onto a pass from Centelles, skipping past a challenge and sliding the ball under Alisson to give us the lead against Liverpool after just 25 seconds of his debut. Felix Nmecha had a different sort of debut and was sent off for a 2 footed lunge after half an hour, after which we got a bit battered. We held on for the draw though, which I was very happy with. City was again pretty promising – They absolutely demolished us but we held firm until just before half time when Mbappé opened the scoring. We were robbed the chance to keep the score down just after the break though when George Dobson also got sent off, after which we were overrun 0-3. Against Norwich, our 2 new giants got us our 1st 3 points of the season, then we snuck past Mansfield in the EFL Cup and lost against Southampton. If you ask me, 4 points from 4 games (Including 2 of the toughest of the season) is not bad at all.

Well, I’m off to go play against some very good sides. With any luck we’ll still be in with a shout of survival the next time I speak to you.

4th February 2026

Well we definitely are still in with a shout, but I’m not feeling confident.

After 26 matches, we sit 19th in the league, 5 points from safety, but on the plus side we’ve already played sides like Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool twice. One thing that’s really stuck out to me this season is the fact that we’re a million times better at home than we are on the road, which is probably at least partially due to the fact that I’ve almost completely reverted to our more attacking system from the lower leagues. The only home matches we’ve lost have been against Everton (1-2), Man City (1-2), Chelsea (1-3) and Arsenal (0-1), whereas the only away matches we haven’t lost have been against Aston Villa (3-2) and Burnley (0-0). Overall though we’ve given a decent account of ourselves in the league – we’re certainly no Derby County, which is promising. We were given a rough time in both Cups though – After edging out Mansfield Town we lost to Man City on penalties in the EFL Cup 3rd Round, then after annihilating Southampton we lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup 4th Round. Battering some lower league sides would’ve been a lovely and welcome confidence boost for the squad, but it wasn’t to be.

But sadly, yes, it does seem like we’re going down. After losing N’Dri in the Summer our defence is nowhere near as mean as it was in the Championship against these mean Premier League defences and we’ve got the worst defensive record in the league, as well as the 2nd worst attacking record.

But I don’t see this as necessarily a bad thing. I think this Summer we’re going to be able to have a huge reset in terms of personnel. We’ll finally be debt free, we have some great young players coming through and we’re working on clearing ourselves of dead wood. Last month, Richard Nartey, Tom White and Nathan Smith all left permanently, while Kun Temenuzhkov’s £2.5M move to FA Cincinnati fell through so he went to Wednesday on loan instead. I’m hoping to get rid of the last of the duffers in the Summer (Greaves, Riley, Brown, Darcy) and completely rebuild the squad into a young, hungry group of potential Premier League stars. Having a single (hopefully) season in the Championship before heading back to the Premier League will be a good opportunity for everyone to get on the same page.

We haven’t bought anyone in this window, but I did recall Gareth Burrows from his loan at Crawley. Gareth’s a really good young centre back/ centre midfielder from our academy and with Nartey, Smith and White all leaving, he’ll give us some extra cover.

And speaking of good young defenders, I will just give a shout out to the James Walker that’s in our squad, not the James Walker that’s on loan at Port Vale. After getting an unexpected go in the team at centre back early in the season, I’ve not really been able to drop him. James has been our 6th best performer so far and has kept Jacob Greaves out of the side for months.

So yep, that’s all for now. I know I’ve been very conservative about this season but you never know, we could still scrape enough wins together to stay up. For me though, this season was always about getting funds in, getting bad players out, clearing debts and resetting. Let’s see how it ends.

I should also probably mention that even if we go down, I imagine I’ve got enough credit in the bank to keep my job. Hopefully anyway, otherwise this has all been a huge miscalculation and this series is about to come to a screeching halt.

9th May 2026

Well we left it late, but we’re actually in with a real chance of survival.

Seriously, I’m not quite sure how this has happened. 2 games ago we were as good as dead, sitting at the foot of the table and 8 points from safety. 2 first half goals gave us the win against fellow strugglers Southampton and I was still sceptical about our chances, but then the same thing happened against Spurs! Spurs!! We’ve not won a single game since the 10th of January and now we’ve won 2 back to back. The best part is that our last 2 matches are away at relegated Norwich, who might have given up and Bournemouth, who’ve just clinched their own survival and might have their feet up.

We’re setting up to attack Norwich here. A win could take us out of the relegation zone for the first time since the 1st of November and I don’t want to waste this opportunity by standing off and letting the match dribble out as a lacklustre 0-0. We’ve got everyone available for once and with back to back wins and an unbeaten streak of 3 games, we’re in our best form of the season. Lol.

Captain George Dobson’s making his centenary for us here. If he can cap it with a goal that’d be smashing.

WE’RE AHEAD! Just after the 11 minute mark Nmecha rolls through Jensen and the big Dane places the ball into the far bottom corner out of the keeper’s reach. Wouldn’t you know it, Southampton are beating Everton and Villa are beating Man United, so we’re still 19th. Still though, I fancy our chances of coming away with the 3 points more than I fancy either of theirs.

2-0!!! In the 44th minute we catch the Canaries on the break, working the ball down the right hand side. In comes a looping cross from Mezzano, Centelles lays it off and our hulking Polish midfielder Lisowski strokes it home. At half time, Everton and Manchester United have both equalised, so our goal difference is just barely carrying us out of the relegation zone as it stands.

Bloody hell, Norwich. I know they’re already down but this is in danger of becoming a thumping. Straight after half time, Jensen lashes a shot towards top bins after some sub-par defending, but Scuffet pulls off a brilliant save, punching the ball over the bar to keep the scoreline respectable. Centelles also has a pop after the corner’s worked around the edge of the box, but that one’s easy for Scuffet to catch.

My heart jumps up into my mouth as a rare foray into our half from Norwich ends up with a dangerous cross, but it’s cleared and their winger Otávio then clips Mezzano’s heels to earn a 2nd yellow. No change to the scorelines at either of the other games.

In the dying minutes, Jensen forces another good save from Scuffet, but that’s all. We come away with exactly what we needed. Unfathomably, safety’s just 1 game away.

16th May 2026

Judgement day, then!

To be fair, before this superb run of 3 wins on the bounce, I thought the last few matches were a formality before our relegation, so actually even being here is a bonus. If we could sneak a result against Bournemouth though and stay in the division, it could rapidly accelerate us, giving us even more funds to spend, helping us keep our best players around, helping everyone develop with another year of top flight football… We’re facing 16th placed Bournemouth at their place for our final hurdle, while Southampton and Villa host midtable sides QPR and Palace respectively. I’m a bit uneasy with that as I feel like both QPR and Palace are punching above their weight and could easily be rolled over. All we have to do is do better than or equal to our 2 rivals though, so it’s all on us.

I name an unchanged team. We’re on a high and I’d be silly to change anything. Nmecha’s just signed a new 4 year contract in which I’ve been able to get rid of the £16M release clause I had to give him to sign for us in the first place, so hopefully he’ll be coming in full of confidence.

Oooooh the referee’s got to be embarrassed with that one. At the end of a quiet first half, he signals for 1 minute of injury time and after 1 minute and 15 seconds of injury time, Bournemouth have the ball in our net thanks to an Aaron Ramsey half-volley. A lesser manager would be demanding to know WHY THE C**T DIDN’T BLOW HIS WHISTLE but I’m really zen about the whole thing. At half time, Southampton are drawing but we and Villa are getting relegated as we’re both behind.

Not long after the break, what looks like a promising chance for us turns into a counter attack for the hosts, with Emile Smith-Rowe forcing a save from Bulka. Chris Mepham heads just over from the ensuing corner as we cling on.

A few minutes later, Perez presses Ramsey into turning over the ball, then breaks forwards and feeds Jensen, who fires it straight at Odysseas. That’s a golden chance gone to waste from our top scorer.

With 25 minutes to go, Southampton take the lead in their match. We’re now 3 points adrift, so we need 2 goals to get back on top. In desperation, we swap to an ultra attacking 2-2-2-1-3, with Brown replacing Walker.

With 15 minutes to go, I throw Saul Stern and Ronan Darcy on as they’re 2 players who can sometimes grab us a goal in desperate times. All I can do now is cross my fingers.

But no, Bournemouth didn’t allow us another highlight. We’re down, along with Aston Villa, despite a crazy 2nd half at Villa Park. I’m actually glad you’ve seen this, because this is how a lot of our matches against bottom-half teams have played out. We have the possession, we have the chances, but we don’t have the quality to finish them or to keep out goals at the other end. I’m hoping some Summer reinforcements will solve that, so that we can bounce straight back. Good effort, boys. We got far closer than I thought we would.

What was really pleasing about this season is that both Jensen and Perez ended up with a solid number of goals, especially for their first season in England. I’ve no doubt that they’ll get a load in the Championship next season, but what is worrying is that we don’t really have many more goals in the squad. Pedro’s always good for a few and a few of the new signings got 3 each, but we could really do with adding more goal scorers.

Again, and maybe this is just because we’ve been such a tiny fish in a massive pond, but the assist numbers aren’t great. Centelles has had a brilliant season, notching 9 assists up, but apart from him, nobody’s managed more than 4.

The top performers were Riley and Centelles. I’m a bit stuck when it comes to Regan Riley – he always seems to perform, but he’s now hit sort of a low ceiling, so I kind of want him gone. One to think about over the Summer, I suppose. Elsewhere, really promising performances throughout the season from Jensen and Walker, while Pedro’s solid as ever.

In terms of what I want to do this Summer, it’s quite simple. I want to keep our best and brightest, especially the young lads we’ve got coming through, and then just add quality throughout the team. I desperately want a new right wing back, as Mezzano’s not a consistent enough performer and I’m getting sick of it. More goals in midfield would be nice and maybe a good backup striker. I do think we’re really well set to bounce straight back up, though. As long as we don’t have some sort of mass mutiny.

And as for our finances, we’ve finally got a debt-free life, we’ve made £100M profit over the last year and the board’s given me a transfer budget of up to £57M to play with, so I’m basically weeping with joy every second of every day.

So that’s that, then. An unexpectedly close Premier League survival race in my 8th season with the club ends with us going back down for our 5th (And hopefully last) season in the Championship. I’ll see you in 2026/27 for that.

A Joke (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 6)

I’ve got a joke for you:

Eight Englishmen, a Northern Irishman, a Scotsman and a Japanese man walk out of a football club.

I can’t think of a punchline at the minute, I just thought it would be a more interesting way of introducing what’s going to be a very sell-heavy Summer.

Before we name those players though, I thought it’d be a good idea after 5 seasons of this save to take a second to think about what we’re actually doing… With our lives… Just kidding, I meant what we’re doing in this save. As you should be painfully aware by now, this is a moneyball save. The broad strokes of moneyball are how I usually play the game anyway: Buy young players for cheap, train them up, sell them on for profit, rinse, repeat. It’s struck me lately though just how different my philosophy in this save has turned out being.

I probably should have mentioned last episode that our youth intake, which up until now has ranged from awful to OK, gave us a golden generation. A genuine one. Not one of these where they say it’s going to be a golden generation but then there’s maybe 2 players who’ll fill your squad one day, it was a genuine golden generation. I was surprised, as because our financial state has been such a constant battle, I’ve barely managed to upgrade our youth network or facilities at all, although they are still quite good.

Ordinarily in this situation (Which I can remember happening like twice to me before), I’d batten down the hatches, sit them all down and nail their feet to the floor so they couldn’t go anywhere. In fact in that scenario, they probably wouldn’t become that great at football, but you get my point. But as this is moneyball, I’ve already cashed in on most of them.

The first to leave was Salford-born Conor Uberschar, who was snapped up by Fulham for £1M (+50%). At the end of the day, he might not become anything, so £1M could be an extremely good price. If he does become something, he’s going to move to a bigger club and we’ll get a hefty payday.

Next to go was local lad Adam Lugsden, or as he’s affectionately known around the club, “The little fat man with the pug-nosed face”. All of you who get the reference are welcome for getting that song stuck in your head. He’s gone to Leeds for the same deal. Again, a 16 year old has no value to us right now and has not proven anything, so this is great business in moneyball terms.

Stuart Wallace went to Brighton and Hove Albion for £2.5M (+50%). He’s a little better than the others right now, but again he’s not proven, so we ship him out.

This was all against my FM instincts but as I’ve justified 3 times now, this is moneyball. It’s what I have to do to pull the club’s coffers back above water. However, there’s 1 lad from this crop of players for whom initially I just said “No. He’s not leaving. No. Fuck off, Spurs. NO.” That lad is Hitoshi Fujii.

He’s still with us at the minute, but he won’t be for long and I’ll tell you why it breaks my little heart. For me, Hitoshi will be a Premier League player if Spurs raise him right. He’s going to be huge and the thing about amazing Asian footballers is that they are an absolute Godsend in terms of finances. I don’t know if any of you read the half-series Slumberland a few months ago, but there was a South Korean defensive midfielder in my Bordeaux team named Son. He wasn’t our best player and he wasn’t even a nailed-on starter, but he sold the most bloody replica shirts out of our star-studded team every year. If I wasn’t committed to a moneyball save, I’d keep Hitoshi, I’d grow him into a star and I guarantee you he’d do exactly the same thing. As it is, he’s off to Tottenham for an admittedly fat wad of cash: £5M (+50%).

So there we go, 4/7 of my golden generation have been scattered to the wind for £9.5M plus the potential of a few hefty windfalls in the future. I may as well show you the other 3 members of our class of 24 now, actually. Goalkeeper Aaron Fell has gone on loan to South Shields for the season.

Centre back Ben Kerr will be sticking with me this year. I want to make sure he’s on the right track before I send him off anywhere as he’s extremely promising and still very very young.

And the same goes for midfielder Kyle Manning. This lad definitely needs a few months in a mentoring group as he’s got some defensive and mental attributes to work on.

The other 6 Englishmen we’ve let go by the way are all players whose contracts have expired this Summer, including former first team players Brandon Comley, Bryn Morris and De’Marlio Brown-Sterling. We’ve not needed any of them in a while so it’s good to get them off the wage bill.

And finally, the Scotsman. George Johnston has left for newly promoted Bristol City for £10M. A lot of our players’ values dropped over the last year but I’m glad that George was such a consistent performer because it meant that his value stayed intact. Cheers and good luck, you brilliant bastard.

So with that soon-to-be £19M in the bank, we’re back in the black once again. Just. We did actually get a £7M-£10M bid from Stoke for George Dobson, but I want his full value of £9.5M now or I’m not selling and the Potters aren’t willing to negotiate.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more to come on the outgoings front this Summer. As I said at the end of last season, everyone’s on the market. Let’s remind ourselves of the squad.

What a difference a year makes. Ibrahimi N’Dri is now not only Italian, not only an Italian with a sensible beard colour, but an Italian with a sensible beard colour that’s by far our best goalkeeper. He kept 22 clean sheets in his 50 games last season, conceding 45 goals. Gunnarsson and Vickers are both able deputies but I’d be willing to sell either of them if the price was right.

I’ve decided not to replace Johnston. By having 6 first team centre backs last season, I left out Richard Nartey and Nathan Smith almost completely. We just don’t need that many defenders so we’re just going to stick with 5, but with Ben Kerr ready to get minutes if we have some sort of crisis.

Diego Mezzano, now fully comfortable at wing back, will be our first choice on the right I think. James Bree was a bit unreliable last season, with niggling injuries and hot and cold form. Now that Mezzano’s natural in his position and a fluent English speaker, he should start to flourish.

If I had a young, promising left wing back I’d be saying the same about Boon too. 15 yellow cards coupled with indifferent form made for a disappointing 23/24 season, but I’m expecting more this campaign. Omar Richards has now had 2 injury hit seasons since joining us and with only a year left on his contract, he needs to stay fit or he’ll be out.

I’m still pretty happy with our central midfield options. Again, we had too many last year and in trying to keep White, Manneh and Morris all happy I spread their game time very thin. Manning will be on the lookout for opportunities but I’m mainly going to be using 4 first teamers, led by new club captain George Dobson.

I’m actually willing to let Dennis Politic go this summer if the right bid comes in. I found myself preferring to use Lara or Bassi ahead of him last season when Darcy was injured or out of form, so he’s not really needed. I’m fairly happy to keep him around if not, though.

Who on Earth knows what my best strike partnership is any more. My best goalscorer Kun’s really been knocked back by last year’s long injuries, Brown and Lara go on regular goal droughts and Bassi’s still not a natural striker. I may have missed out on Moise Kean in January and I’m not planning on bringing in many players this Summer, but if I can find a top quality striker, he’s coming in by hook or by crook.

Also, after missing out on promotion narrowly 3 years in a row, we’re now up to the giddy heights of 17th in the bookies’ eyes. Lol.

3rd August 2024

Well, we’re off to a solid start.

Transfers first, but in the end, not much else ended up happening. Fujii’s price ended up at £6M (+50%) thanks to a late bidding war between Watford, Spurs and Bournemouth and I also cashed in on Jay Fitzmartin and Jim Miley for an extra £500k, but apart from that we just saw outgoing loans.

I did try hard to bring in a striker and it was one that I’ve been tracking for over a year – Everton’s Ellis Simms was in a similar boat to Moise Kean was last Summer: Transfer listed with a year to go on his contract and available for £1.8M, which was well within budget. He first caught my eye in the 22/23 season when he scored 19 goals on loan at Salford in League One, but then when he repeated the feat on loan at Preston last year, scoring 24 times as they finished as League One Champions, I had to have him. Initially I sneakily tried to get him on loan for a year, knowing that I’d be able to sign him for free next Summer, but Everton were having none of it so I paid their asking price. This started a miniature frenzy though, with Middlesbrough coming out with the lad’s signature. Oh well. It would’ve been nice, but I’m not as down as I was over Moise Kean. It still remains to be seen if Ellis will cut it in the Championship and we now have funds for January if we need them.

Overall I’m much happier with my squad than I was a few months ago. It’s sleak, it’s talented and it’s ready to have another go at promotion. The finances are looking very nice too.

We’ve only had 1 match so far, away at newly promoted Preston (Again). Eddie Brown got us off to a flyer but I do wish Omar Richards would stop fucking injuring himself. He’s out for a month.

2nd February 2025

Alright, I don’t want to jinx it, but we’re looking decent.

As is tradition at this point, we were dumped out of both cups at the first chance we got, losing on penalties against Wigan and getting hammered against Crystal Palace in the EFL Cup 1st round and FA Cup 3rd round respectively. In the league though we’ve been strong. Of course there’s been the odd fumble and the odd frustrating match where we’ve dropped 1 or 2 points, but overall I can’t complain. For the most part we’ve beaten the teams we should be beating and managed not to lose against the cluster of big sides. We’ve not even had that many injuries.

I think a major factor in our good form has been our defence. We’re still not a side that scores a lot of goals, as has been the story of our time in the 2nd tier, but with the combination of Justiniano, Brockbank and Greaves becoming a fully cohesive defensive unit alongside N’Dri’s absolutely ridiculous progression as a keeper, we’ve conceded just 15 goals in 34 games – The best in the league by a country mile. N’Dri’s now refusing to discuss a new contract as he’s already outgrown us and I can’t really blame him. He’s already levelled last season’s tally of 22 clean sheets and we’re only in February.

Transfer-wise, nothing much has happened. I turned down a few more poor bids for our skipper George Dobson, but nobody left or joined on a permanent basis in January. I did decide to send class of 24 members Kerr and Manning on loan to Bromley though, to see if they could save them from dropping out of the football league.

Sadly, our finances are still as annoying as ever though. Despite making £20M through player sales and not spending a penny this season, we’re nearly £5M in the red. The good news is that we’ve now paid off £32.75M of our debt, which means we’ve only got £8.25M still to pay off, so by the Summer of 2026 we’ll be fully debt free. If we can combine that with a promotion to the top tier, we should really start to take flight.

So yeah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet and let’s not panic, but with 12 matches left to play, we’re level on points with 2nd place and 2 points off 1st. Let’s go see if we can overtake these fools.

28th May 2025

We couldn’t, but I’m not that broken up about it.

Finally the bridesmaid has become the bride. Bolton Wanderers are fucking BACK. We scored just 52 goals in 46 but we conceded just 23, 50% fewer than the 2nd best defence, Watford.

Over March I began to fear the worst. A run of 6 straight draws from February to April had us fall completely away from the race for the automatic promotion spots and we were in real danger of falling out of the play offs too. If Derby County hadn’t had a freak loss against Preston and we hadn’t managed to snatch a draw against Stoke, it would’ve been us dropping out of the top 6 to make way for Blackburn. As it was though, we just managed to cling on and went into the play offs in quite miserable form, having won 2 of our last 11 matches.

I suppose when you think about it though, our 1 major advantage this season was what carried us through. I often forget that as well as scoring shit loads of goals to win a game, you can win a game by just not conceding as much as you should. The play off semis got off to a rough start when Leeds’ young Spanish midfielder Chechu lashed a shot in off N’Dri’s bar from the edge of the box after 8 minutes. We refused to capitulate though and equalised 10 minutes from time when Lara’s corner somehow went all the way through a packed penalty box and fell to a resurgent Eddie Brown, who smashed it in. We took the lead on the hour mark in the 2nd leg when Bassi was dragged down in Leeds’ box by Julián and Brown smashed the penalty away, but straight from kick off Captain Dobson was so excited that he tripped Julián and earned his 3rd red card of the season. It looked as though we might hang onto the win, but a late mazy dribble and clinical finish from Whyte sent us to penalties and after a tense turnaround, Harry Brockbank scored the sudden death spot kick that sent us through.

The final was a horrible match. Both sides spent 100 minutes kicking the shit out of each other while making very little in the way of chances, picking up a combined 8 bookings between them and injuring both Jordan Boon and Tom White, before Jonathan Panzo shoved Jacob Greaves as they challenged for a a header and Eddie Brown once again scored the vital penalty to clinch victory for the Trotters.

So we rode our luck, we got some help from the officials and we have a lot to thank Eddie Brown for, but the only thing that matters is that after 6 long seasons, we’ve finally reached the promised land.

And it’s a good job too. We’re £14M in the red at this point and I haven’t got another golden generation to sell. The board have planned a ludicrous transfer budget of £38.46M and I can’t wait to start preparing.

Before we do that though, let’s tie up this season with a neat little bow. I don’t know what’s gotten into Eddie Brown this year, but he’s finally the Championship striker I knew he could be. Right as we leave the Championship. Bit of a pisser, really, isn’t it? Kun got a good number of goals under his belt too, while Boon was back onto an admittedly bare top 5 scorers list. Ronan Darcy deserves a special mention, because every single one of his goals was an absolute screamer, but sadly I’m pretty sure they all came in the first month of the season.

I’ve persisted with Mezzano through gritted teeth at times this season, as his ratings have been really quite poor, but in all fairness his attributes are rapidly on the rise and he has weighed in with more assists than any other player in the last 2 seasons. Bassi and Lara both did alright here too, although I’m still not convinced by either of them.

Once again, Pedro and Riley both had solid seasons, along with (unsurprisingly) fellow defensive players Dobson and Greaves. I expect to be fending off bids for most of them this Summer.

In terms of strengthening… Well, we’ve got a bit of a job on our hands, haven’t we, but it’s going to be nice having the window open until September again. I’m going to try to do the smart thing of planning for life back in the Championship again. I want to sign players who are top Championship players with potential to be Premier League players so that in the highly likely event that we’re relegated next Summer, we’ll have the quality to take us back up without having to go through yet another pissing play off. We definitely need at least a striker, left wing back and midfielder, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see quite a bit of turnover before September.

So that’s it. It’s going to be an extremely busy Summer, but it’s such a relief to have finally made it and to have an end in sight to our financial plight. Bolton Wanderers will play Premier League football in 2025/26. How’s that for a punchline?

Is Gareth Southgate England’s Best Choice for Euro 2020? (Part 2)

Ello. I hope you’re ready to test out some more prime candidates for the England job. Let’s get down to business.

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I’ve always felt like Steve Bruce would be a safe pair of hands for the national job. He probably wouldn’t bring a massive amount of excitement or success to the table but he’d be fine. He’s experienced as hell in the English footballing pyramid and is highly respected.

Looking at how he did in this simulation actually does my head in a little bit. He absolutely stormed a potentially tough group D containing 2 home nations, scoring 9 goals and conceding just twice. Then he took out Ukraine in extra time. All this while playing an intriguing 3-4-3 system reminiscent of how Southgate’s got the national side playing at the minute. When the quarters rolled around though, England drew Spain and Bruce abandoned his attacking, free flowing 3-4-3 for a flat 5-4-1, setting up to frustrate the Spanish. It’s actually a fair plan and shows some pragmatism by the boss, but it didn’t work. Spain dominated and scored the only goal, sending the lions home with a whimper. I will give him a couple of bonus points for the big rival win and for 4 games of great football, but I’m subtracting a bonus point because of how he bottled the Spain game.

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Sam Allardyce is a really weird mesh of opinions, isn’t he. He was really respected for his progressive ideas at Bolton with regards to nutrition and sports science and everything, then he became the poster boy for route one football, then the man you turn to to save you from relegation, but through it all he’s always just been seen as a bit of a wanker. Since he was originally removed from the England role for admitting to some nefarious practices, he’s become a cheat too.

But how does he do if he makes a spectacular return to the biggest job in English football? Actually really well! He grinds out results really efficiently, only winning by more than 1 goal once in the semi final, but on the road to the final England defeat some really huge teams using a 4-2-3-1 with deep midfielders – Belgium and Germany are big scalps, while he also switched to a flat 5-4-1 to beat Spain and it actually paid off, unlike when Bruce tried it. Losing 5-1 to France in the final was pretty embarrassing, but overall you have to say that’s a really solid if unspectacular tournament, even if it does leave a ridiculously sour taste.

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Pep Guardiola’s stock is dropping a little bit lately, but I can’t see him leaving City until either they win the Champions League or he obscenely underachieves and forces the board’s hands. Still, it’d be interesting to see what he’d do with our boys.

The results are not good. Somehow Pep’s England side levelled Jamie Carragher’s record of getting eliminated as early as possible, losing their first 2 games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iceland, before handily beating France. I was intrigued by his decision to buck the trend and start Nick Pope ahead of Jordan Pickford, but then I realised the Everton keeper was injured and missed the tournament, so there were no left-field player picks and no left-field tactics. It was a standard, fairly dominant 4-3-3 all the way through. Not a good performance from Pep.

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Is it just my imagination or is David Moyes having a little renaissance at the moment? He went right off the rails after the Manchester United disaster, Sociedad wasn’t much better and Sunderland was probably the low point… But since he returned to West Ham he seems to be back in his element – Direct football, hard graft, grinding out results… Can he transfer those skills to the England job?

I’m going to immediately jump to Moyes’ defence, as on the face of it, his 2 draws, win and a penalty loss look like a pretty awful campaign, but to his credit, his England team played a free flowing attacking brand of football in a 3-4-3 and made 18 clear cut chances over those 4 games. How they only scored 6 goals is beyond me – The Scotland and Northern Ireland games in particular should’ve been cricket scores. I’ll chuck him a bonus point for playing nice football, but he’s going to be near the bottom of the league.

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Find me somebody who doesn’t love Chris Hughton, I dare you. He’s just a friendly, hard working, normal bloke isn’t he. Not only that, but he’s got a lot of experience under his belt nowadays. In a situation where Southgate wasn’t going to take control of Euro 2020 in real life, I’d hope to see Chris in the running. But will his methods translate to international football?

People, we need to start getting past the 2nd round. To be fair, like a lot of managers we’ve covered so far, Chris was unlucky to get booted out by Poland after 4 games that England absolutely dominated. It should’ve been a 4th win, but sometimes international football just shits on you. Nothing unorthodox by Hughton either, just used a solid 4-4-1-1 all the way through to his exit, but I will give him a bonus point for his superb group stage.

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Did you miss him?!?!

Roy seems like a lovely bloke and is obviously a hugely experienced and knowledgeable manager, but that Iceland match is going to haunt him forever, isn’t it. To be fair, it wasn’t just the Iceland match. We never convinced during his first stint in charge of England. A group stage exit in World Cup 14, then a 2nd round exit in Euro 16 doesn’t inspire confidence. 2nd time lucky?

A couple of old scores got settled here, didn’t they? Wales got their revenge for the Euro 16 group stage by taking all 3 points from their neighbours, before Roy’s footballing powerhouse rejoiced in obliterating a tiny Scandinavian nation. Honestly though, the group stage wasn’t all that impressive. 4 points isn’t a great tally at all. The 2nd round was much better, seeing off the Netherlands, who are always a threat, but then Italy in the Quarter Finals proved too much.

To be fair, it’s an improvement.

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And to finish off our 2nd episode, the reigning Premier League champion, Jurgen Klopp. The prospect of having his high pressing, high tempo tactics on the pitch, his charisma in the dressing room and his charm in front of the press is a tantalising prospect for those of us who’ve grown up with the likes of Fabio Capello and Steve McClaren.

Oh come on. Klopp can’t get past the 2nd round?? Why’s this the hurdle that’s tripping up even the best coaches in the world? The German’s Englishmen got progressively worse as the tournament went on – After opening on a 3-0 hammering of Bosnia & Herzegovina, they scraped past Sweden, failed to scrape past Poland and then got scraped past by Belgium. Klopp’s 4-3-3 did manage to give England the better of most of their matches, but they didn’t pull up any trees. Disappointing again from a very capable boss.

We’ve got 3 clear choices at the top so far and somehow from this distinguished list, it’s Alan Shearer at the top, followed by Alan Pardew and Sam Allardyce. I’m going to need somebody credible to step up and end this madness next time. Also it’s worth mentioning, I’ve added an extra rule to distinguish Roy Hodgson and Rio Ferdinand, who were in joint 8th – After points, goal difference and goals scored, matches played is the decider. As Roy got further into the tournament, he ranks better.

14 down, another 20 to go. See you next time.

A Fat One (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 5)

1st July 2023

You know what I can’t wait for? Promotion. When we get promoted next Summer, all our problems will be distant memories. Bolton Wanderers, despite all that life’s thrown at us, will be back in the big time. You might have noticed my change of tact – Instead of talking about this season’s promotion as a conditional, I’ve decided to start talking about it as a fact of life in the hopes of forcing it to become true.

As such, we need to start thinking ahead just a little bit. What actually happens next season once we’re up in the top tier? Will we be stomped into mulch and sent back down to the Championship in disgrace? Will we be able to add a couple of choice players and challenge for Europe? Maybe even a title challenge is in the offing? To the answer those questions in no particular order: No, Probably not, No and Consolidation. I reckon if we’d been promoted back-to-back-to-back in the 21/22 season we would’ve been stomped into mulch by the elite, but our squad’s already so much stronger than it was then and we’ve now got another 2 transfer windows in which to bolster ourselves even more. I genuinely think we’ll be looking at a safe lower-midtable position.

So let’s start bolstering. I’ve already brought in my first signing for the new season – Ivorian club ASEC Mimosas have had a surprisingly large number of players I’ve wanted over the last 4 years, but most would’ve failed to get work permits. When I saw that their first choice goalkeeper Ibrahima N’Dri had Italian parents though, I wasted no time in flying him and his Abel-Xavier-esque blonde goatee over to Manchester Airport. At 19 he doesn’t quite fit into my usual “Early 20’s” criteria, but I’m willing to make an exception as he’s got crrrrrrazy potential and is costing us just £155k.

On the outgoing side, we say goodbye to a couple of old faces – Sonny Graham and Ryan Delaney just don’t have the quality to keep up with us nowadays and have been let go, along with a couple of youngsters lacking potential.

So although we haven’t had the same early excitement as last year, we may still make major moves this window. Despite only having £1.5M in the bank, I’ve been given a transfer budget of £5M, which I interpret as Chairman Ben White feeling as gung ho about going for promotion as I do.

Squad time.

We now have a real competition for the number 1 spot – There’s not much between Ibrahima N’Dri and Slapstick Gunnarsson, but as the higher potential option that didn’t cost us promotion, N’Dri probably starts the season as my favourite. Josh Vickers is a more than capable 3rd choice.

As our younger options will all be out on loan this season, we’re actually a little short at centre back. We do have 5 extremely good options though and I’ll have my eye out for a 6th.

James Bree is the standout choice here after an excellent 1st season and Jay Fitzmartin will be knocking around as backup, but Jay’s defensive attributes have me on edge a bit, so I may well look into signing someone to compete with James.

On the left we’re absolutely sorted – Jordan Boon is getting better year on year, while I’m hoping that Omar Richards will be able to contribute more this season after an injury-hit first campaign.

Our central midfield will more often that not be comprised of some combination of Tom White, Alasana Manneh and Regan Riley. Bryn Morris is a decent option and thanks to us avoiding relegation last year, Brandon Comley’s contract has been renewed for another year. I want the latter gone ASAP and I may bring in an upgrade on Morris.

Attacking midfield is the one position that hasn’t changed at all over the last 4 seasons and I’m perfectly happy still with the old combination of Ronan Darcy and Dennis Politic.

Up front I’m happy with Kun and Lara, but Brown and Brown-Sterling have me worried. Brown’s a backup player at best these days, while Brown-Sterling’s never been comfortable in this team. Maybe this year’s the year when I finally let him go on loan and bring in an upgrade.

And finally, after 2 straight seasons in the play offs, the bookies have finally admitted that we may actually reach the dizzying heights of… 17th. We’re really taking baby steps up the table in their eyes, aren’t we.

4th August

Are we just throwing a dart nowadays to decide when the transfer window shuts and when the season starts?

Yep, we’re a week later than usual but we haven’t played a game yet and the window’s just shut. I have no idea, but never mind that. Let me start this Summer with a transfer that I couldn’t get done, but rumbled on all window anyway.

After a less than stellar spell at Everton, Moise Kean has been placed on the transfer list for £4M, way less than his market value. He looked like the exact type of quality boost we’ve needed up front that’d make promotion a formality and proved his Championship credentials last season scoring 14 goals for lowly Hull on loan, but unfortunately he wanted about £40k per week and that’s way more than I’m willing to pay, especially when I’m already shelling out so much for a transfer fee. Keep an eye on this one though, as I’ll certainly be ready to pounce when Moise and Everton get more desperate to make a move happen. He’s only got a year to go on his contract too…

Onto some actual signings though – In the absence of Kean, I brought in another attacking midfielder to be moulded into a striker to follow in José Lara’s footsteps – Amine Bassi.

The Moroccan Magician’s scored 34 goals and registered 31 assists in the last 4 seasons in France’s 2nd tier with AS Nancy Lorraine. His average ratings are consistently around 7.00, his dribbles per game is consistently over 3.00 and his passing completion rate is consistently between 70% and 75%. I’ve been watching him for about a year and when his contract ran out I snapped him up. His value’s immediately shot to almost £7M too. Next up is Pedro Justiniano.

Good lord, this boy’s got some pedigree. An Angolan-Portuguese-Italian who came through Juventus’ ranks and has spent the last 6 years with Porto? Yes please. Granted he hasn’t played that much for Porto’s senior side, but he’s been a regular for their B side in the Portuguese 2nd tier and has put in some good performances over 4 years, averaging ratings between 6.87-7.14, completing 3.65-4.14 tackles per game and completing 78%-80% of his passes. I think he could be great at senior level if somebody shows a bit of faith in him. I’ve shown £625k’s worth. Then we have Diego Mezzano.

Italy U21 right back Mezzano has joined from Inter for £1.4M, my joint biggest signing with Omar Richards. I’m taking a little bit of a punt on him as not only are we judging him off a single season on loan with Chievo Verona in Serie B, where he averaged a 6.89 rating, completed 3.36 tackles per game and 76% of his passes, but he’s also a bit of a mercenary. My thinking is though that someone with his potential’s worth the punt and at 20 years old we’ve got plenty of time to make him see that there’s more important things than money, like sunshine and flowers and fluffy little bunny rabbits. My final signing of the window was George Dobson.

How could I not sign this lad? A brave, hard-working, team-playing leader that runs all day? Has he been created just for me? George’s contract at Sunderland ran down so he’s cost us nowt, which is music to my ears. Over 4 years on Wearside George has averaged ratings from 6.84-6.99, completed between 1.89-3.7 tackles per game, 74%-89% of his passes and chipped in with roughly 3 goals and 4 assists per year.

The only notable departures are Brandon Comley and De’Marlio Brown-Sterling going off on loan to Grimsby Town and Newport County respectively – Comley’s gone so somebody else can pay his £3.8kpw wage until his contract expires and Brown-Sterling’s left in a last ditch attempt to show me that he’s got something worth holding onto.

We could have done with another big money sale this Summer, but no offers came in, so we’re back in the red for now. When we get to the Premier League in 9 months though, that shouldn’t be a problem.

1st February 2024

Uh oh, ya boy’s getting pissed off at the game again.

It’s been one of those seasons – Injuries everywhere, goals ruled out everywhere, the opposition’s 1 shot on target flies in from 50 yards everywhere. We’re not going up this season, boys. To be honest, I really need a lifeline at the minute to keep me invested in this save.

Transfer-wise, nothing has happened at all in January. We had bids from Crystal Palace and Brighton late in the Premier League Summer transfer window for Brockbank and Johnston respectively, but they refused to meet the players’ values and got refused. Palace switched targets and came in for Johnston at the start of January, but again it was a non-negotiable shit offer. This has meant we’ve got no money and no transfer or wage budget and this has meant that we’ve missed out on Moise Kean, who my slim hopes of a successful season was resting on. Watford have snapped him up for £1.3M.

We went out of both cups at pretty much the first time of asking – Notts County beat my reserves early in the season in the EFL Cup, while we drew Everton in the FA Cup 3rd round and played out a goalless 180 minutes before they thrashed us in extra time in the replay.

After starting off the season in truly scintillating form, we’ve been getting steadily worse and worse since the end of September. Imagine the levels of luck in that Brentford match at the end of last season, only now we’re experiencing that on a bi-weekly loop, usually coupled with an injury or 2.

You might be able to sense my pure apathy towards this season and honestly I just want it to be over at this point. Our finances are toilet, our form’s toilet and I really, really need us to pull something out the… Toilet, as my enthusiasm is seriously on the wane.

2nd March 2024

Alright, I’ve slept since my last update and played on for a month, in which we’ve come through a really, really tough run of games against Stoke, Leeds, Derby, Newcastle and Ipswich with 11 points. All of this is to say that I’m not quite as cranky as I was then.

I do just want to offer a bit of context for yesterday’s FM nihilism by showing you our injuries so far this season though. As I said previously, we started off incredibly strongly, shooting up to the top of the league with Eddie Brown and Kun Temenuzhkov both firing on all cylinders. Then they both got injured, along with José Lara and our goals dried up, which started a poor run of form, which meant that even when they came back we couldn’t recapture the magic. And then Kun got another serious injury from which he still hasn’t recovered 2 months later.

The thing is that annoys me about key players missing this much football is the fact that they’ve picked up impact injuries, so I can’t even justify it by saying it’s because of our intense tactics. Omar Richards missed 3 months with a broken foot and Kun’s been missing mainly with broken ribs.

Well as I say, we’re now looking pretty good for a play off place again. I’ll go finish this off and let you know.

25th May 2024

Welp, we weren’t promoted.

That’s 3 seasons in a row of being in the Championship play offs and 2 seasons in a row of being beaten in the final. We stumbled across the finish line to be honest, losing the last 2 games of the regular season, before edging Derby out of a close Semi-Final. Bristol City claimed a dramatic win at Leeds in the 94th minute of their semi 2nd leg to meet us at Wembley.

I decided not to come back and make a day of it like I did last year as it just makes the defeat that bit more gruelling and Bristol had already beaten us 0-3 and 1-2 in the regular season, so coupled with our worst Championship performance so far in terms of points, I wasn’t confident. I was later vindicated in my pessimism, which in all honesty was not much of a consolation.

In my defence, 4-1 flatters Bristol. The game was close, with their opening goal being immediately cancelled out by George Dobson’s 1st for the club. In the 2nd half, their goal again was cancelled out by a header from Justiniano, but this was ruled out because Harry Brockbank was stood in the vicinity of the keeper. If he was in his eyeline though, I’m Alex Ferguson. And that did it for us – Our heads went down and like they were playing a training game, Bristol passed it through us and scored twice more.

This has felt like by far the worst season we’ve had to date. It’s the only season that we’ve actually regressed in terms of both league position and points tally, the runs of results have been absolutely gruelling at times and the performances just haven’t been there. I’ve been especially disappointed with the performances of the 3 players I singled out for praise last Summer – Boon, Bree and Temenuzhkov have been so-so. I’m just about ready to put some heads on the block and cull some people in the upcoming transfer window, so let’s take stock.

Kun still finished as our top goalscorer, with Brown just behind him, despite the pair of them scoring the majority of their goals in the first couple of months of the season. I was hoping that José Lara would build on his 6 goals from last season now that he was a fully formed striker, but he’s actually regressed. I have been impressed with Regan Riley though, who’s had a bit of a landmark season. Justiniano has been impressive too in his debut season.

Again, José’s 8 assists was less than last year’s tally of 10, but it’s the best anyone managed. Bree regressed, Boon regressed, Brown regressed, but I was happy to see Mezzano chipping in a fair bit, even if he had a very up and down season overall.

The average ratings on the whole this season were laughable. Nartey tops the charts but only played 90 minutes once – In our EFL Cup loss against Notts County. Omar Richards was fine but missed half the season through injuries and fitness. Justiniano and Riley as I’ve said have been the only surprise bright spots in a dark season, while George Johnston is absolutely still a solid defender and I fully expect him to be gone next season.

Our finances are looking bleak. We’re now £11M in the hole and we still don’t have Premier League money to bail us out, so we’re going to have to sell big. Everyone’s on the market this Summer as I quite fancy a rebuild anyway.

Now considering my despondence a few in-game months ago, you might think I’d call this series there. On the contrary though, I go through several stages of grief specifically with football manager. First I get annoyed, then I resign myself to the fact that our luck will never change, but then I push through and get filled with a white-hot, scowling determination to succeed in spite of the game and then to rub it’s stupid, fat face in my achievement. I’m Goku, FM is Frieza and 3 play off defeats in a row is Krillin’s death… If you follow me.

So too bloody right I’m coming back for season 6 and FM can suck a fat one if it thinks we aren’t going up. See you then.

Is Gareth Southgate England’s Best Choice for Euro 2020? (Part 1)

For the record, the answer is yes… If that’s all you were looking for, please feel free to go about your business full of optimism for our chances in next year’s tournament!

But if not, hi! Now that I’ve finished writing my 11 part Bolton Wanderers Save, I thought it’d be a fun change of pace to use football manager to find out whether or not Gareth Southgate is actually the best choice to lead the 3 lions through Euro 2020 (And yes, I’m going to be ignoring reality and continuing to call it that).

At the time of writing (~4PM on 12th October 2020), thesackrace.com (Using odds from Paddy Power and/or William Hill) has Burnley’s Sean Dyche as the favourite for the next England manager, followed by 32 other potential managers. Over this 5 part series, I’m going to test all of them, followed by Gareth himself, to see if we’ve got the right man for Euro 2020.

I’ll be changing the England manager in the FM20 Editor, then holidaying for a year until Euro 2020. Obviously it’s not a perfect comparison as each England team is going to have a different group in the tournament and different form and injury problems to contend with, but we’ll just have to make do.

I’ll then be ranking the potential managers in a league table at the end so that we can see a clear winner. Each win in Euro 2020 will be worth 3 points (Including extra time or penalty shootout wins), each draw will be worth 1 point and losses will be worth nowt. Winning the Euros will be worth an extra 5 points and I may hand out up to 3 bonus points if any of the managers show real style, initiative or out-of-the-box thinking, like playing a 2-2-6 or showing faith in a League One striker and having it pay off. If points can’t decide it, goal difference will. If goal difference doesn’t, goals scored will. If goals scored doesn’t, then God help us all.

We’ve got a lot to get through, so I’m going to leap right into the first simulation. Starting with the joint longest odds on the list is current Salford City manager Paul Scholes.

You can understand why Paul Scholes is the last on the list – Inexperienced as a manager and rarely seen in the public eye since his retirement, he only really pops up in the news if he’s taking temporary charge of a lower league North-West club or breaching lockdown rules.

His England side was surprisingly good. After a worrying start against an admittedly good side, losing 0-1 to Belgium, they overcame Bosnia & Herzegovina and demolished the Auld enemy to top Group D. This earned them a 2nd round match against another old enemy in Portugal and it wasn’t pretty. An early Harry Kane goal was cancelled out by goals from Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo either side of the break, but then when Kane was given the chance to level the scores from the penalty spot in the 95th minute, he was unable to beat the keeper.

It’s a pretty unlucky exit, given the strength of the teams they faced and the circumstances that sent them home, but it’s still an exit. I’ll give Scholes 1 bonus point for thumping a rival team, but other than that I thought he was very underwhelming. He picked Phil Foden every game, but I don’t think that counts as a left-field choice anymore.

I’ve had to recreate Harry Redknapp from FM18 as he isn’t in the current database. He was actually my pick to get the job after Fabio Capello finally left in 2012. Let’s face it, we could’ve used a laugh at that point and Redknapp would’ve provided.

‘Arry ‘ad a really good group stage. He didn’t manage to beat Scotland like Paul Scholes did, but his England side did hammer Bosnia & Herzegovina and Slovakia, finishing top of the group without conceding a single goal using his solid 4-4-2. But then came the 2nd round and Germany. In a fairly even game, 1-0 Germany was probably just about the right scoreline. England didn’t disgrace themselves, but it wasn’t a tournament to remember either.

Another recreation, this time from FM19, Jamie Carragher is a bit of a weird shout given his lack of any kind of experience whatsoever as a coach.

I’d love to say he proved everyone wrong, but he was abysmal. In terms of results, anyway. His team’s performances were good and I’d go as far as to say that he deserved to win all 3 matches, but they only picked up a single point in the group stage. Guessing he’ll stick to punditry for now.

I had to go all the way back to FM13 to recreate this one – The FM scouts gave up on him long ago. Despite only having had 3 months experience (Which involved a relegation) since his retirement 15 years ago, Alan Shearer’s actually more likely than old ‘Arry for some reason.

In a stunning turn of events though, he’s actually the first manager we’ve covered that’s gone and won the Euros! Shearer’s men put on an absolute clinic, sweeping Group D aside with 7 points before seeing off Germany, North Macedonia and Turkey en route to a final against Italy.

There was nothing flashy from what I can tell – He stuck rigidly to a simple 4-4-2 system and the 1 left-field squad member he brought (Striker Kemar Roofe) was unused throughout, so he gets no style or ingenuity points from me, but still… Take a bow, Alan.

Up next is old Pards. I know he’s a bit of a figure of ridicule nowadays but I am a bit surprised that a manager with his experience finds himself at such long odds.

Oof and he very nearly made himself the man to beat. Up until the final, Pardew’s men had won every single game, most of them convincingly! But then they reached the final against Portugal and it went south pretty fast as they crashed out 0-3. The manager stuck with a very standard 4-2-3-1, but he did play open, attacking, attractive football and he also got the big win over the Scots, so I’ll give him 2 bonus points.

I’m personally really happy to see Sol Campbell getting back into football in the last few years. He’s said some weird shit since retiring in 2011, but he’s an English footballing icon. I always enjoy seeing ex-England players getting managerial jobs, so it’s great that he’s working his way up the leagues.

Probably a bit too soon for the England job though, isn’t it? The group stage went well – 7 points, although they weren’t as comfortable scorelines as the likes of Pardew, Shearer, Redknapp and Scholes were getting. Then Austria were seen off in the 2nd round, but then France kicked the nation right in our collective face. 4-0 is an absolute embarrassment.

What I will say in Sol’s defence though is this: He leaned hard into an intriguing new system, with 3 centre backs, 2 wing backs and a holding midfielder, 2 central midfielders and 2 strikers. He played Reece James and Ross Barkley as a midfield partnership twice and that’s kooky enough to get a bonus point out of me. Also, over the course of the Norway and Austria matches, Sol lost captain Kane, vice captain Henderson, Barkley and Lallana to injury. That’s pretty brutal in terms of midfielders and experienced heads.

Rio Ferdinand’s a bit of a weird name to be on this list at all, never mind at shorter odds than the rest we’ve covered so far. He’s done a fair bit of punditry work and… I think some boxing… Since retirement, but he’s had no coaching experience that I’m aware of.

His England squad included no shock picks and he had an extremely average tournament, starting with wins against Sweden and Switzerland, then drawing with Scotland and losing on penalties to Ireland in the 2nd round. They were dominant enough in each match apart from the one against the Swiss, but even so, I suspect that even Jamie Carragher’s campaign would be remembered more fondly than this.

So that’s 7 managers down, 27 more to go. We’re starting to see a pattern aren’t we – I think 7 is going to be the score that the vast majority of managers pick up. It means they had an unbeaten group stage and went out in the first knockout round, which seems to be as good a job as most of these can do. Alan Shearer’s set a hell of a high bar to top for these other candidates though, and who thought we’d ever be saying that about a managerial position? Jamie Carragher, conversely, has all but guaranteed himself the dead last position.

See you next time.

A Nickelback Song (Moneyball-ton Wanderers – Season 4)

I am so high, I can hear Heaven…

My fingernails dig into the edge of the cliff, carving deep furrows in the earth as I slide towards the abyss.

I am so high, I can hear Heaven…

Holding onto my legs are the Bolton Wanderers players, coaching staff, physios, scouts, tea ladies, groundsmen and fans… But I can’t hold on. The weight dragging us down is too great. We’ve failed. I’ve failed.

But Heaven… No, Heaven… Don’t hear me…

As I’m about to fall, a warm hand grabs my wrist. It begins to pull me back towards safety with enormous strength. The music swells.

And they say that a hero could save us… I’m not gonna stand here and wait…

I fall exhausted onto the solid ground of the edge of the cliff. Behind me, my peers start to emerge too, unscathed and finally safe. I look up to gaze upon the face of our saviour. It’s local businessman Ben White. He’s completed his takeover of Bolton Wanderers. “I hate this song”, he whispers.

I’ll hold on to the wings of the eagles… Watch as we all fly away

A single tear runs down my cheek and becomes lost in my beard. “We all do.” I breathe.

“I enjoyed it in Spider-Man” A tea lady pipes up. There’s a murmur of agreement from the ensemble.

And they’re watching us… And they’re watching us… As we all fly away…

2nd July 2022

Yep. Ya boy didn’t think to get a screenshot at the time, but Sharon Brittan has sold Bolton Wanderers to Ben White, who immediately brought us back into the black and injected about £5M into the coffers to get us back on track. Please say hello to this save’s MVP.

Ben took me to one side after joining and said “I can give you about £500k to spend, is that going to be enough?” after which I immediately collapsed into his arms and began ugly-crying with joy. I now have huge plans for this Summer. Let me introduce you to our first FOUR signings of the season, starting with Jacob Greaves.

Jacob is one of 3 free signings we’ve made and joins us after leaving boyhood club Hull City. He was a solid first team player for the Tigers for 2 seasons in League 1 and helped them get promoted to the Championship last Summer, but only managed 12 appearances in their first year back in the 2nd tier. His average ratings have been consistently good, as has his pass completion percentage and his highest tackles per game was in 19/20 when he averaged 3.34. At 21, he’s nowhere near as good as he can be yet. Next up, James Bree.

Former FM wonderkid James has been brought in for a conservative £300k from Ipswich Town, the club he joined last Summer for free. Thanks to his move to the Tractor Boys he’s finally played some regular football and impressed me with a 6.88 average rating in League 1, making 3.43 tackles per game and completing 69% of his passes. After 3 seasons of searching, we finally have depth at right wing back. Next, José Lara.

I’m taking a bit of a punt on José, an attacking midfielder, as I actually want to train him up to use him as a deep lying striker. I’ve been tracking him for a while as his performances in LaLiga Smartbank last season were excellent. He averaged a 7.01 rating, scored 10 goals and set up 8 more in 42 appearances for boyhood club Sevilla’s B side, Sevilla Atlético, completing 70% of his passes and making 3.06 dribbles per game. I reckon he can become a hell of a player for us and he’s already worth £2M after his free transfer. Finally (For now), Kun Temenuzhkov.

I do seem to love a player whose name I need to check about 3 times while typing it. Kun came up through Barcelona’s academy and moved to Leeds, for whom he made a whopping 7 substitute appearances. His loan moves, specifically last season’s loan to Exeter City in League 2, caught my eye though as he scored 14, assisted 5, averaged a 7.19 rating and completed 2.61 dribbles per game. He probably won’t be the first name on the teamsheet for a while, but he’s got a lot of potential and his price (£0), was right.

And let me just whine for a moment about the one that got away. Ivan Vukcevic was a player that really excited me as he’s been released by Buducnost Podgorica in Montenegro after scoring 62 goals and assisting 36 in 3 years. At 20 years old that’s impressive enough, but then if you factor in the fact that he helped fire Podgorica all the way to the knockout stages of the Europa Conference League where they were knocked out by Marseille and that he helped them qualify for the Champions League, my mouth was watering. Sadly we couldn’t get him a work permit, so we’ll have to go our separate ways. Shame though.

The only outgoings so far have been the players I released at the end of their contracts – Most notably, Nathan Delfouneso, Antoni Sarcevic and Steven Prieto, along with some youths that weren’t going to cut it.

But I feel so fucking alive! It’s been so long since I’ve been able to just go and make some good signings at the start of Summer to get us off to a good start. Let’s have a look at how the squad currently stands.

The competition’s really heating up between the sticks. At the minute, Bulka’s my main squeeze, but Vickers is close behind him. Wilson’s progressing quite nicely too. Ideally I’d send him on loan to get minutes and bring in an experienced 3rd choice keeper, but that’s a low priority.

We currently have 7 centre backs, but that should soon be down to 5. Greenidge is close to a move to Doncaster Rovers and I’m looking into potential destinations for Edwards, after which I might even try to find another top class centre back to stir things up. Captain Brockbank is still our star man here.

At right wing back, we finally have healthy competition in Jones and Bree, but that’s not a dig at Jay Fitzmartin, who’s been good for the last season or 2. I want Jay out on loan this season getting regular minutes so he can come back and really stake a claim to be my first choice.

Left wing back could yet be a problem. Sam Hart and I have been having a dispute for months about what kind of new contract he should be offered and he’s just thrown his toys out of the pram and demanded a move. He’s current (over)valued at £7.5M though and I’m not holding my breath for someone to match that. We’ve had a couple of offers so far but both were just shy of £1M. I’ll keep my eye out for a replacement just in case, but I dare say he’ll still be here after the deadline closes later this month. Boon is as solid as ever and Walker is very promising.

Midfield might need freshening up a bit. White, Riley and Morris are all solid enough but if we could bring in a 4th to dislodge Comley I’d be very happy. Skelton’s still promising and versatile.

Attacking midfield isn’t an immediate concern. Darcy’s good and we’ve got Lara now who can cover if needed, but I’m a bit worried about Dennis Politic, whose progression has stalled over the last year. His value keeps climbing though, oddly.

I’m excited about this frontline’s potential. We already know how good Eddie Brown can be, but Kun and José Lara are real potential talents. I am just about ready to give up on Brown-Sterling though as he just isn’t progressing. I’d like to bring in yet another striker so that I can send Brown Sterling down to League 1 for a year, but I’m not sure if our budget’s going to cover it. Miley and Guel both have great potential and at least 1 of them will probably be off on loan.

So what do the bookies make of us after our promotion near-miss last season? Oh, we’re predicted 19th. Well at least we’re not in the relegation spots any more.

One thing our new Chairman hasn’t done by the way is clear any of our debts, so we do still have those pesky £500k per month payments to think about, but financially we’re looking better than we ever have.

30th July 2022

Woof, do I have a lot to tell you about.

The transfer window has now closed and it has been a busy one, but since we last spoke we’ve mainly focused on getting rid of some players. I’ve stripped away a lot of the defensive deadwood, with Reiss Greenidge, Nathan Whalley and Liam Edwards all leaving for Donny, Portsmouth and Ipswich respectively. That netted us a combined £535k and with Ryan Delaney’s loan move to Luton costing them £43k per month, we’ve got a nice bit of scratch from 4 players that I wasn’t going to use all that much. The real laugh out loud moment though came on deadline day, when Real Valladolid nearly matched Sam Hart’s value. They bid £6M rising to £7.25M with a 20% sell on clause and that was more than enough for me. Hart is out and finally, we’ve made some really, really nice profit on a player.

With all of those defenders leaving, I actually ended up making 2 more (free) quality signings at centre back. Firstly came Richard Nartey.

Richard comes in on the back of 3 really consistently solid seasons on loan at League 2 clubs, which begs the question: Why didn’t Watford think to loan him to a League 1 club? He’s easily good enough to be a squad player for us and I’m happy to have him. Then there was George Johnston.

George coming in means that we’ve got 5 really high quality centre backs and 1 with potential, which I really like. He’s about on a par with Harry Brockbank and I don’t use those words lightly. He joins us after his Feyenoord contract ran down, despite a really impressive season with them. He made 17 appearances, averaged a 7.02 rating, made 4.35 tackles per game and completed 78% of his passes. I reckon he’s our signing of the summer.

Our final signing came on deadline day, immediately after the departure of Sam Hart. Leeds signed Omar Richards a couple of seasons ago for £7.5M, but couldn’t fit him into their quality-laden side. So luckily for me, he was on the transfer list and I snapped him up for £1.4M.

This is a bit of a punt, as he played 14 Premier League games for Leeds, averaging a 6.49 rating, and 4 Championship games, averaging 6.87. I’m mainly bringing him in on the basis of his performances at Reading in the Championship though, where he consistently averaged around a 6.9 rating, over 3.25 tackles per game, over 70% pass completion and around 1.5 dribbles per game.

Again though, there was 1 transfer that I just barely didn’t manage to get over the line. I wanted a central midfielder to complete my team and identified (Blast from the past) Lamine Fomba at Nimes Olympique. With £350k left in the budget I thought I could sneak him in, but the transfer and contract combined meant that he would’ve cost closer to £425k, so it didn’t happen. Maybe next window.

So with that massive amount of transfer news caught up on, how has the season actually started? Well we had an incredible opener against newly promoted Coventry in which Kun Temenuzhkov scored twice and assisted twice on his debut, Jacob Greaves also got on the scoresheet on his debut and young Mo Guel came off the bench to score a brace of his own. Since then though, we’ve been brought back to Earth. We drew Barnsley in the EFL Cup 1st round again. I played my reserves again. They beat us again, this time after a shootout that went to 10 each and in which Josh Vickers missed the crucial spot kick. Sam Hart missed the other in what would be his final act in a Bolton Wanderers shirt. A sad end to a good 3 years. Then Reading battered us in the league.

We’ve not been able to use Jordan Boon or James Bree yet as they’ve both been injured since pre-season, but otherwise our fitness is good and we’re getting to some sort of team cohesion already, so things are looking alright. See you in half a season.

2nd November 2022

What? November? But what of the rigid formulaic structure these episodes usually cling to for dear life? Well, I want to break formula a bit to talk about our first half of the season. We’ve played 23 league games and compared to how this save’s generally gone so far, we’re doing pretty poorly.

I was afraid that this might happen. When taking a team up through the divisions in Football Manager, momentum is your greatest ally. After failing to qualify for promotion last season and with a key piece of the puzzle having left in the summer, that momentum’s deserted us. I will qualify this statement however by saying that we’re still punching well above where we’re meant to be aiming at, but I still think this is worth dwelling on for a moment.

For the most part, our form has carried on from where we left off last season – Low scoring games decided (Or not) by the odd winning goal. The thing is though, we’ve been scoring less and less, especially since our trip to Blackburn in mid-September. Since that day, we’ve won 3, drawn 1 and lost 7 and I do put it down to a lack of goals.

We’ve just not managed to replace Nathan Delfouneso’s goal scoring record. By this time last year I’m pretty sure he was in double figures. He’s still a free agent, but I feel like re-signing a 31 year old would not only be admitting defeat, but it would be completely against the spirit of this save.

One positive we can take is that even as he’s adjusting to life in English football, José Lara is doing alright. He’s our top scorer with 6 goals and is also our 2nd best creator with 4 assists, 1 behind Ronan Darcy. Behind Lara though, Jacob Greaves has scored 4, Temenuzhkov has scored just once since that opening day brace and Eddie Brown has today ended a goal drought stretching back to late August. Other than them, nobody’s scored more than once. We desperately need improvement in front of goal.

What’s just as concerning is that we also seem to be conceding more and more goals lately. To be fair, we’ve struggled with injuries and suspensions in defence a fair bit over the last few weeks, with Omar Richards yet to really get back to fitness since joining us, Jacob Greaves suffering a concussion and George Johnston and Harry Brockbank both reaching yellow card milestones.

I may be making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe by time we get to February Eddie Brown will be slamming the goals in and we’ll be back to our defensive best, but I thought it worth mentioning this while we’re in the thick of it. We’re about to kick off the 2nd half of the season with the reverse ficture against Blackburn, so maybe they can start us off on a win streak this time. Wish us luck.

6th November 2022

I’ve just realised that the Blackburn game was the last one before the winter World Cup in Qatar, so no win streak for us. We did get a hell of a win though, with Kun breaking his drought.

2nd February 2023

Alright, I’m feeling a lot better now we’ve wandered back up into the playoff spots.

Weirdly enough, the Blackburn game actually did start off a really good run of form for us, although admittedly squeezing in a few friendly hammerings over the winter break probably played a part too. Since the half way point we’ve won 7, drawn 2 and lost 1 in the league and we’ve won both of our FA Cup ties against League 1 Fleetwood and Premier League Bournemouth. Man United are visiting in March so that should be interesting.